By: Woodnick Law, PLLC
Everyone remembers Cliff and Claire Huxtable and their kids living a chaotic yet loving life. TV has the ability to show humor and conflict and wrap it all up in a bow in less than 30 minutes. But what if the Huxtable marriage fell apart like nearly half of all marriages in America?
Cliff was an OBGYN who ran his practice from an office connected to the Huxtables’ brownstone. Clair was a partner at a law firm. Together they raised Sondra, Denise,Theo, and Rudy. But what if it was a façade; and in the present day, Cliff was served with a sexual harassment suit saying he had knocked up one of his labor and delivery nurses?What if Claire found out he had been dating the nurse for some time and buying her extravagant gifts? How would their personal and business lives be affected if they filed for divorce? (And let’s assume this is all taking place in Arizona for the sake of this hypothetical).
The valuation and goodwill of a business is extremely important in determining an equitable distribution of the assets of the Huxtables. In relation to Claire’s law practice, the value depends mostly on how much of the practice she owns. It may also depend on what type of law she practiced – for example, how is she paid and will she anticipate receiving ongoing future payments for her services – that were earned during the marriage – even after the divorce? In relation to the OBGYN practice, many of the same considerations will need to be evaluated. However, it is also important to consider whether there is a value to the tangible assets, office building, equipment, etc. Is Claire’s office on the corner of Scottsdale and Chaparral? If so, it’s probably worth a few bucks, and that value must be divided or offset in the divorce.
For both parties, they may have a claim to the value of the goodwill (an intangible asset based upon earning ability) of the other. Practical and strategic considerations will need to be made by both litigants about how to value and divide their professional practices and other community property.
What about Cliff’s affair? Claire may have a community waste claim based upon his extracurricular activities. The concept of waste derives from the concept that if one spouse uses community funds in such a way that is entirely contrary to the benefit of the community, it may be considered financial waste. Claire could very well assert a waste claim to Cliff if he used money to take his “friend” out to dinner, on weekend trips, or to buy gifts.
In any divorce with children in Arizona, there arise the issues of legal decision making (formerly custody) and parenting time. Any children of the Huxtables under 18 could be subject to a custody battle between Cliff and Claire. There are many considerations that the Court considers regarding the best interests of the children when entering orders on these issues. Importantly, however, Cliff’s affair is not a factor unless he inappropriately exposes the children to his extramarital activities in a way that may harm them. In Arizona, marital infidelity is not a “best interests” factor in most custody disputes. Of course, not to be overlooked, there are the other assets and debts of the parties that also still need to be examined and valued. They could include, among other things: selling the Brownstone, valuing vehicles, dividing retirement, splitting bank accounts, and dividing debts.
There are certainly a lot of issues to consider in this hypothetical “Arizona Huxtables” divorce. Both parties would certainly need to consult with attorneys because, even though Claire is a legal practitioner herself, Arizona family law is a broad and complex theater with potential pitfalls at every turn.