How Our Firm Navigates Athlete Divorce Settlements with a Focus on Spousal Support

by | Feb 19, 2024 | Divorce, Spousal Support

It’s not shocking that pro-athlete divorces are at a much higher rate than the national average. The marriages of professional athletes suffer under a unique set of stressors. Those at the height of their careers can bring in staggering amounts of wealth from generous contracts, endorsements, and licensing deals. At the same time, however, they’re under intense pressure to perform, enduring grueling hours on the road and away from family as they train and compete. And what about the fame that comes with success? It may feel like a welcome reward for years of effort, but public scrutiny and the relentless attention of fans can fracture even previously strong relationships.


Unfortunately, thanks to the unusual nature of athletic careers, divorce can be a financial disaster—or a financial time bomb—for both the athlete and their non-athlete spouse. Enlisting a family law firm experienced in dealing with the complexities of how athletes earn their wealth, how that impacts the division of assets and spousal support, and the damaging impact social media can have is essential for producing the best possible outcome. Hoover Krepelka understands the risks involved in divorce for professional athletes and has a track record of obtaining positive results for our pro athletes and other high-net-worth clients. We can help limit the financial fallout from your divorce.



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How Divorce Can Cause Financial Ruin for Athletes


Divorce poses a serious financial risk for those who, realistically, have only a short period of time to take advantage of their peak earning potential. Unlike those in traditional professions who can have decades-long careers with steadily rising income, professional athletes achieve their top income in a short period. Once they retire, in most cases, their ability to earn drops precipitously. Sadly, a large number of athletes experience bankruptcy or financial distress within years of retirement.


When a divorce occurs during a player’s active career, the division of assets can result in a huge payout to the non-athlete spouse, especially when there was no prenuptial agreement to limit the non-athlete spouse’s claim to assets. More problematic is that the current high level of income can potentially result in a spousal support award that may be unsustainable.


Division of Assets and Spousal Support in Pro-Athlete Divorces

pro-athlete divorces spousal support

Deciding what is marital property and what is separate property when a professional athlete is divorcing often requires a close reading of team contracts and endorsement agreements. If such a contract guarantees certain future income, that could conceivably be considered marital property subject to division. More often, contracts stipulate a certain level of performance. Because payment can be withheld if the athlete is unable to fulfill their obligations, that future income is likely to be considered separate property. It is to be expected that each side will argue for the characterization of assets most favorable to their party, so having legal representation knowledgeable about potential issues is essential for negotiating equitable divorce settlements.


Someone divorcing a pro athlete may also seek an amount of alimony high enough to sustain the lifestyle they enjoyed during marriage. Whether they’re granted the amount they seek and how long spousal support will last depends on many factors. In California, spousal support is generally limited to up to half the length of the marriage for short-term marriages. But if the marriage has lasted ten years or more, spousal support could continue indefinitely.


A non-athlete spouse in a long-term marriage who sacrificed educational opportunities or professional advancement to support the athlete’s career may feel entitled to the maximum they can get in spousal support. That high award may do more harm than good, however, if the athlete cannot continue paying it. It is ultimately in the best interests of both parties to work out a level of support that will enable both to remain financially stable.


Social Media and the Real Harm of Reputational Damage

Professional athletes, like other celebrities, rarely get to enjoy privacy in their personal lives. An athlete’s good reputation, however, can be directly tied to their income. When a messy divorce spills over into social media disputes, athletes stand to lose endorsements, sponsorship deals, or professional contracts. Even if they manage to hold onto their current deals, a tarnished image could cause other companies to shy away—and again, the window in which pro athletes can make the most of their careers is short. The damage can be permanent. This benefits nobody.


Hoover Krepelka’s experience with past pro-athlete divorces informs our insight into the damage social media can do. We navigate the court system to make sure everything possible is done to mitigate any image issues that could affect an athlete’s current and future opportunities.

In the Game of Divorce, You Need a Winning Team

In sports, an athlete’s skill and perseverance elevate them to the top of their game. The support of their team, however, is the necessary ingredient that creates the environment for winning. The same approach applies to Hoover Krepelka and our attorneys.


We know how complex and stressful a professional athlete’s divorce can be. Thus, we assign a minimum of two attorneys, a paralegal, and a legal assistant to each case. By creating a strong team for our client, we ensure that both the client and the attorneys are supported and set up for success. If you need a team to help you navigate a professional athlete divorce, the attorneys at Hoover Krepelka are here for you. Fill out the form below to schedule your consultation today.

*The above is not meant to be legal advice, and every case is different. Feel free to reach out to us at Hoover Krepelka, LLP, if you have any questions. Information contained in this content and website should not be relied on as legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice on your specific situation. 

Visiting this site or relying on information gleaned from the site does not create an attorney-client relationship. The content on this website is the property of Hoover Krepelka, LLP and may not be used without the written consent thereof.


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