Divorce for Professional Athletes

Being a professional athlete doesn’t just require talent and hard work, it also requires dedication and focus. Off the field issues can impact performance on the field. And because a professional athlete’s career is often truncated, every dollar counts.

Divorce for Moorestown and South Jersey professional athletes

Many professional athletes choose to reside in South Jersey, and particularly in Moorestown, New Jersey, where our office is located. With a quick commute to the stadiums, additional privacy, and great schools, South Jersey has a lot to offer those who can afford its high state taxes.

But a divorce is a difficult situation for anyone, and having access to a high net worth and income can only serve to complicate things.

Divorce for Professional Athletes

Many, but not all athletes will have signed a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement helps to simplify a New Jersey divorce. Professional athletes contemplating a marriage should consider a prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial agreement or not, however, there are many issues that will need to be addressed in a prenuptial agreement. Those many include:

Alimony and Child Support for Professional Athletes

In New Jersey, alimony considers the income of both parties. That means not only past and present income, but consideration of what future income may be.

Professional athletes differ from other jobs because they often have a contract. This will often include guaranteed income and non-guaranteed income such as bonuses. Every sport has different salary structures. For instance, in baseball all contracts are guaranteed but in football there is often a mix of guaranteed and non-guaranteed income.

Of course, on the field income is merely one of the income opportunities available to professional athletes. There is also endorsement deals and media opportunities. Many athletes also own various business interests, such as car washes, restaurants, and car dealerships.

For these reasons, it can be tough to pin down a proper income for professional athletes for purposes of alimony.

In the appellate case of Strahan v. Strahan, (2008) featuring former New York Giant and media personality Michael Strahan, the court addressed some of these issues.

The Strahan’s had entered into a prenuptial agreement, but that did not stop years of divorce and post-divorce litigation/appeals, particularly on the issue of child support.

The parties’ experts had determined that the marital lifestyle (in or about 2007) was $1 million dollars per year. The trial court awarded base child support for the parties’ two children of $35,984 a year, plus supplemental child support of $200,000 a year because of Strahan’s high income. This did not include expenses not contemplated by child support such as medical insurance for the children, unreimbursed medical expenses, extracurricular expenses, and college costs. The court imputed no income to his wife, even though she was to receive millions of dollars in equitable distribution.

The appellate court agreed with Michael Strahan that the trial court had failed to make the specific findings of fact necessary to sustain the supplemental child support amount of $200,000 per year.

The Appellate Court found that the trial judge failed to make any analysis of the reasonableness of the expenses, and included many expenses in child support such as $27,000 a year in clothing and $30,000 a year in landscaping that seemed to be completely unreasonable or to not directly benefit the children at all.

Although in high income families, children are  entitled to the benefit of financial advantages available to them, “the custodial parent bears the burden of establishing the reasonableness of those expenses.”   Accardi v. Accardi, 369 N.J.Super. 75, 88, 848 A.2d 44 (App.Div.2004).

Alimony and child support must also be calculated while considering the unique costs of being a professional athlete. Agent fees, high taxes, publicists, financial advisors, and so forth may reduce the size of the pie, regardless of how large it is. The use of trusts and other complex financial instruments may be utilized. There are extra costs for security, and many other expenses non-public figures do not have to consider.

Division of Assets

In New Jersey, equitable distribution is not merely a 50%-50% split. Care is given to consider what is “fair and equitable.” Certain classes of assets are exempt, such as premarital funds, inherited funds, gifted funds, and personal injury funds.

Professional athletes often have high income and high assets, but care must be given to ensure an equitable distribution of assets and any debts.

Child Custody

The life of a professional athlete can make child care difficult even in the best of times. The amount of travel and training a professional athlete must undertake throws out the usual child care schedule. A workable plan must be achieved, along with language that allows for reconsideration of child custody when the athlete retires.

The issue of removal from the state must also be considered. If a player is traded or signs with a new team, that could also send a marital settlement agreement into upheaval. Your divorce lawyer must take care to craft a plan that not only addresses the present situation, but future eventualities as well.


If you are a professional athlete residing in New Jersey, then you will likely file for divorce or defend a divorce in New Jersey. Being proactive in obtaining an experienced local divorce firm is necessary to obtain the best results for you and your children.




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