Actor Terrence Howard’s real life has started to resemble some of the plot lines from his hit TV show Empire. A battle over the terms of his 2012 divorce from his second wife, Michelle Ghent, reads like a prime time drama with accusations of blackmail, extortion, and threats to release illicit videos. At stake is Ms. Ghent’s share of Howard’s salary for the second season of Empire.
Howard claims that Ghent threatened to release private and embarrassing details about him which would impact his career if he refused to sign the 2012 divorce settlement. A California judge agreed with Howard and ruled that the settlement should be overturned since it was signed under duress.
The ruling stops Ghent from receiving any share of Howard’s current Empire salary. The ex-spouses will now have to come to a new agreement on the financial terms of their divorce. A situation Howard and his attorneys apparently feel will turn out much better for the actor.
The ruling in the Howard divorce case brings up interesting questions for future divorce cases. Here are three lessons to learn from the case.
1. You Can Spend a Very Long Time Dealing with a Bad Divorce
For Howard, it has taken three years to properly resolve his divorce from Ghent. During that period he had enough time to marry and recently divorce his third wife; all while still unhappy with the terms of his second divorce.
When getting divorced, it is important to get things right the first time. Experienced divorce attorneys will help you make sure matters are settled properly and all important issues are resolved. No one wants to return to court to keep arguing every few years. Talk to your lawyers and make sure the terms you are agreeing to are acceptable. You don’t want to start a new life with lingering problems from your divorce.
2. Your Behavior During Your Divorce Matters
During a divorce, it is easy for emotions to get the better of you. Many people have found themselves saying or doing things out of character while upset over the actions of their soon to be ex-spouse. In tense situations, it is always best to take a break and try to calm down. Never leave angry messages or try to go confront your spouse while upset. Such behavior can have a negative outcome in the court room.
In the Howard case, both sides hurled accusations of wrongdoing. However evidence of coercion and blackmail by Ghent was particularly relevant to the legal question at hand. One particularly incriminating piece of evidence was a recording of a phone call in which Ghent demanded $40,000 from Howard before the end of the day or she would sell private information about him. Howard’s accountant testified that the actor made the payment. This and other acts by Ghent become the basis for the judge’s ruling that the settlement was signed under duress.
3. Divorce Modification Can Fix a Bad Divorce
As the Howard case shows, it is possible to come back and change the terms of a divorce at a later date. While having a judge completely overturn a divorce settlement is extremely rare, divorce modification is possible under the right conditions.