June 22, 2007 - The phrase "Celebrity Divorce" has become almost synonymous with tabloid rumors, mud-slinging, and nasty public battles. The high-profile "he-said, she-said" tales of betrayal, poor parenting skills, and infidelity of the rich and famous can make headlines that might leave a lot of us wondering: what is wrong with these people, and why can't they just get along?
In fact, there are many high profile couples who have been able to split fairly amicably and keep themselves out of the tabloids.
The divorce of Michael and Juanita Jordan, for example, has been named by Forbes magazine as one of the "most expensive" divorces in history, and yet, the couple had remained so far under the tabloid radar that their divorce news surprised all but their closest friends. Juanita Jordan had filed for divorce in 2005, then withdrew court papers. There has been media speculation that perhaps the couple, at that time, had agreed to keep their split out of the public eye and out of the courts until they could agree on the division of their substantial assets and the custody of their three children. When they did file for divorce in 2006, their split was finalized quickly because they seemed to have already worked out their agreements in private. In fact, Michael Jordan recently commented to reporters that he and Juanita were "fine" and had remained on friendly terms. One of the most famous athletes and men on the planet divorced his wife of almost twenty years without fanfare and without public fighting.
Another amicable divorce was that of acting powerhouse couple Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. After 11 years of marriage and three children together, the couple announced in 1998 that they were splitting, without giving a reason. The divorce was finalized two years later, and though their divorce did not escape tabloid rumors and speculation, the Hollywood divorce was relatively mild by Tinsel Town standards. In fact, when Demi Moore married actor Ashton Kutcher two years ago, Willis attended the wedding and in fact, has even commented that he is "fortunate to have Ashton in the family" and told reporters that he still "loves" Demi. The couple has commented that they put their children first, and even reportedly spend holidays together.
Acting duo Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe were married in 1999 and split last year. Though their divorce is not yet finalized, they have appeared in public together with their two children and have not engaged in public mud-slinging. Like Moore and Willis, they appear to have values that place their children and family life above their own differences. Witherspoon was quoted in Woman's World magazine in 2006 saying, "Life isn't just about you: it's about family and friends and giving back." Phillippe expressed his point of view on raising his children several years earlier: "Where you raise your children is not as important as how you raise your children," he said.
Though most high profile couples announce that they will divorce amicably and probably intend to do so, few seem able to resist the temptation of telling their "side" of the story in the media. Add to that the public nature of celebrity divorce and the very personal heartbreak and anger while ending a marriage, and you have a breeding ground for anything but an amicable and private divorce.
The list of celebrities who divorce acrimoniously seems nearly endless, while those who divorce with dignity are rare indeed. The common thread amongst those who divorce quietly appears to be an intense focus on privacy, maturity, and a strong sense of putting the welfare of their children and families first.