LOS ANGELES (AP) - With everyone talking about former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s out-of-wedlock child, the politician abruptly put his Hollywood comeback on hold to sort out his personal life and perhaps prepare for a starring role in a big-budget divorce battle.
The former “Terminator” star, who earlier this week acknowledged fathering a child with his family’s longtime housekeeper, told his talent agency Thursday to postpone all his movie projects.
“Gov. Schwarzenegger is focusing on personal matters and is not willing to commit to any production schedules or timelines,” a statement from his office said.
When Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, separated earlier this month, neither was talking divorce. That may have changed, however, after he revealed Monday that he fathered a now 13-year-old son with the family housekeeper and never told his wife until this year.
People magazine reported this week that Shriver has retained prominent Los Angeles divorce attorney Laura Wasser. If the Kennedy heiress and former network TV anchor goes ahead with a divorce, several prominent attorneys say, she is likely to cash in big.
“It seems to me that he has gratuitously embarrassed her. This should greatly enhance settlement negotiations,” said Atlanta attorney John Mayoue, who has represented Chris Rock in a paternity suit, baseball star David Justice in his split with actress Halle Berry, and other celebrities.
Although California is a no-fault divorce state, meaning her husband’s action technically can’t be used against him in court, the reality, attorneys say, is that it will be.
“Every judge would know about what happened, and I think would hold it against him,” said attorney Robert Nachshin, who has represented the ex-wives of a who’s who of entertainers that includes Will Smith, Rod Stewart and John Ritter. “Judges are human beings, and Maria will definitely be the sympathetic spouse.”
Based on his experience, Nachshin said, Shriver should expect to receive at least $100,000 a month in spousal support and, with two children under the age of 18, thousands more a month in child support.
Then there’s the division of the couple’s property, including the Brentwood mansion that Shriver and her children moved from earlier this year.
Nachshin said that could be affected by a prenuptial agreement, if the couple signed one when they were married in 1986. Many such agreements call for people to keep what would otherwise be joint assets separate after marriage.
Although the scandal has gained worldwide attention, the attorneys said the most surprising thing about it is that the public found out.
“In my experience what Arnold did is not unusual,” said Nachshin, who has represented several clients he said hid the existence of children from their wives and others. Mayoue said separately that it’s not surprising for celebrities to have such secrets the public never knows of.
In retaining Wasser, Shriver is turning to an attorney whose specialty is keeping details of celebrity splits secret, and Nachshin said that’s what Schwarzenegger should strive to achieve. He suggested that if the former governor is smart, he would seek to have divorce proceedings handled privately by a retired family law judge, keep his mouth shut in public and tell the truth in court.
“Because courts go crazy if people lie,” he said.