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The lessons that can be learned from star athlete divorces

Virginia residents are likely familiar with salacious media stories about the extravagant spending of superstar athletes. Networks pay billions of dollars to televise sporting events, and more and more of this money is finding its way into the pockets of star players. Few celebrity stories are as eagerly snapped up by the public as accounts of acrimonious divorces and nine figure divorce settlements, and the leading lights of sports including football, basketball, golf and tennis have all featured prominently in such headlines in recent years.

Michael Jordan is seen by most basketball fans as the best player in the sport's history, and his head for business allowed him to turn his athletic gifts into a formidable financial empire. However, Jordan's personal life did not always fare as well, and the iconic shooting guard paid $168 million to his former wife in a 2007 divorce settlement after almost three decades of marriage. Sometimes athletes pay heavily to escape their marriages for something new when fame and fortune come knocking. The cyclist Lance Armstrong turned the head of Sheryl Crow when he began to rack up Tour D' France yellow shirts, but it cost him $14 million to see off the first Mrs. Armstrong before he could pursue the Grammy-winning star.

The ultimate cost of divorce for superstar athletes is often far more than the lump sums or child support that they are required to pay. The top-ranked golfer Tiger Woods paid his former wife $100 million to escape an unhappy marriage, but stories of infidelity tarnished his wholesome reputation and led to him losing several lucrative sponsorship contracts.

Experienced family law attorneys may recommend prenuptial or postnuptial agreements for couples with high incomes or significant assets. While many view such agreements with cynicism and distaste, attorneys may point out that they can sometimes make marriages stronger and more likely to endure by eliminating the fear and uncertainty that can erode even the strongest bonds.

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