Chrishell Stause, from Netflix’s Original “Selling Sunset”, is a real estate agent of the Oppenheim Group in Los Angeles California and a former actress, who married Justin Hartley in October 2017.
The Oppenheim Group is a real estate brokerage firm that is well known in Los Angeles known for generating approximately $1 billion dollars in sales per year. Chrisell dated Justin for 4 years before they married in October 2017. Her marriage to Justin was shortly lived once Justin filed for divorce on November 22, 2019.
According to Justin’s petition, the couple separated on July 8, 2019. Chrishell on the other hand argues that the couple did not separate until on or about November 21, 2019. Chrishell also notes that the couple had been together, appeared at different parties and lived with one another between July 8, 2019 and days before November 22, 2019. Chrishell further points to evidence of her claims through social media posts the couple shared, which include videos and pictures of them being together. Reports of Justin alleging this earlier separation date is to avoid paying spousal support under California law.
The couple did not have children, nor did they adopt children together. Justin has a daughter from his previous marriage, who is now 16 years old. The couple adopted two dogs in December 2016, one of which died in 2017 and one who is still alive and in the possession of Chrishell. The couple purchased a $4.65-million-dollar home in March 2019.
Chrishell’s net worth is approximately $5 million dollars. Chrishell’s earnings as a real estate agent is purely from commissions for each home/property she sells. The percentage of commission earned is not disclosed to the public. Prior to becoming a real estate agent, Chrishell earned between $450.00 and $1,000.00 per episode from her acting roles in All My Children, The Young and the Restless, and Days of Our Lives.
Justin Hartley’s net worth is approximately $7 million dollars. Justin’s income is approximately $250,000 per episode on “This is Us”. He was previously earning $125,000 per episode.
Illinois unlike California is not a community property state. Community property states usually divide all marital property 50/50. Illinois is an equitable distribution state and disposes of property in what the court sees as equitable between the parties. Equitable does not mean equal but is synonymous with fair. The court may consider the income, debt, future earnings, liability of each party when distributing the marital property between the parties. Marital property is property purchased, acquired, and gained from the date of marriage until the date of divorce. There are a few exceptions of course such as inheritance, but that is for a different blog post.
There is no mention of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement between the couple, so essentially all martial property, discussion of allocation of debt and spousal support is fair game.
Here, it is not known what percentage, if any, of each of the party’s net worth is marital. It is also not known if the parties had or acquired any retirement accounts, money marketing accounts, stocks, investment accounts during their marriage. Also, it is unknown whether the couple had any investment accounts, retirement accounts prior to their marriage, but nonetheless, if these accounts gained any value during the parties marriage, the value and/or funds earned during the marriage are considered marital property. Assuming that the parties do in fact have retirement accounts, investment accounts etc… a court will most likely award Chrishell her interest of the marital portion of Justin’s retirement and investment accounts, and vise versa for Justin from Chrishell’s retirement and investment accounts.
As for the marital home, it is unlikely that the couple have paid the home in full and more likely that they have a mortgage payment that is paid monthly. On the show, Chrishell voluntarily left the home and found a new space to live in. Chrishell did not state whether she wanted to move back into the home or whether she wanted her marital portion of the home. Unless Justin offers to buy Chrishell out of her interest of the home, assuming Chrishell cannot afford to buy Justin out of the home, a court will most likely will place the home for sale. Once the home sells, the proceeds will first be used to pay any and all debts associated with home, including the mortgage, property taxes, any maintenance needed to sell the home, and fees associated with the sale of the home. Thereafter, any net proceeds would be disbursed between the parties.
Moving on to spousal support. In Illinois spousal support is awarded based upon the net income of both parties and the length of the parties’ marriage, from the date of marriage to the date of filing of the divorce. So, Justin’s claims of when the parties were separated to avoid spousal support is not relevant in Illinois. Further, if the parties’ combined income is $500,000 or more, the court had the discretion to not use the statutory formula to determine spousal support amount. Under the statute, Chrishell would be awarded approximately 4.8 months of spousal support from Justin.
If I were representing Justin, I would advise to offer Chrishell a lump sum settlement amount. Paying a lump sum property settlement amount usually does not have any tax consequences to either party, a lump sum payment can conclude any communication and lingering attachments between the parties which can result in a quicker healing process, and usually with a lump sum the amount paid is lower than an amount being paid separately for each property, asset and spousal support combined.
If I were representing Chrishell, I would advise to take an approach where she is able to get as much as she possibly can. Her lifestyle during the marriage is going to be hugely different when she is finally divorced. Her earning capability will probably be the same, but her income will no longer be supplemented by her $250,000 per episode earning husband. If a property settlement were to be offered to Chrishell, her attorney should ensure that it is close, if not as much or more, than the amount she would be able to get through spousal support and her interest in each separate asset and property.
The date of separation in Illinois is relevant to determine how soon or long the parties need to wait to enter a divorce. The state of Illinois requires parties to be separated as Husband and Wife for at least six months prior to entering a divorce. Here, if the parties separated in November 2019, their divorce would be able to be finalized at the end of May 2020. If the parties separated in July 2019, the parties would be able to finalize their divorce beginning January 2020.
As for the couple’s dog. In the show, Chrishell has the parties’ dog in her possession and there is no mention that Justin has any interest in having the dog back. As of 2019, parties may have custody of their pets. Parties may agree to have joint custody or litigate to have sole custody of the pet if there is no agreement. Custody of the pet not only includes making decisions for the pet, but also having the financial responsibility for caring for the pet. If I were to represent Justin or Chrishell I would advise that the dog stay in the possession of Chrishell and for Justin to waive his rights to the dog. In the show Chrishell is the sole individual who cares for the dog. Though the parties dated for four years and married for two years, there is no reason to have anything keeping these two attached to one another considering no children are shared between them.
As for debt, depending on the division of the property and the marital estate, a court would most likely have Justin be responsible for the majority of any and all marital debt in light of his current and future earning capabilities are far more and higher in amount in comparison to Chrishell.
Divorce is hard. Make sure you have an attorney that cares for your case and is well versed in the divorce process and procedures to ensure you get the most beneficial outcome in your case. Call Kiswani Law today at 708-210-9247 to discuss how we can help you with your case.
-Attorney Mervate Mohammad