Family Law Corner: Fearing Spousal Support Request, TV D-Lister Tells Wife Her Acting is an F

Character actor Jon Wellner, who was promoted to a series regular on CBS’s popular crime drama “CSI” in 2012, says his wife should give up acting and get a “real” job.  Jon recently filed for divorce from his wife of seven years, Whitney Wellner (formerly Powell).  Whitney is best known for her supporting gigs in “Save the Last Dance” and “Kwik Stop,” films made well over a decade ago.  Jon is asserting Whitney earns about $12 in residuals a month from her various roles, and that since she hasn’t succeeded as an actor yet, she probably never will.  Certainly, this is related to the likelihood that Whitney is seeking spousal support from Jon.

 Although TMZ is not reporting the specifics of Jon’s request, he has presumably asked the Court to order Whitney to submit to a to an examination by a vocational training counselor pursuant to Family Code §4331.   Vocational examinations assess a “party's ability to obtain employment based upon the party's age, health, education, marketable skills, employment history, and the current availability of employment opportunities. The focus of the examination shall be on an assessment of the party's ability to obtain employment that would allow the party to maintain herself or himself at the marital standard of living.”  See §4331(a).

For her part, Whitney is claiming that she has been a working actress since 2001 and even won a Best Actress award from the Southern Appalachian International Film Festival in 2010 for her starring role in the Indie film, “Moonshine.”  Her most recent role was a guest spot on Jon’s show “CSI,” though Jon claims that was just a case of nepotism. Whitney shot back that he apparently thought she was good enough to appear on his show.

If the Court finds that Whitney must seek full-time employment in another field if she is requesting spousal support from Jon, Whitney may take the position that she will need further training or education before she can be self-supporting.  One of the mandatory factors that the Court must consider when ordering spousal support is “the marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment." Fam. Code 4320(a)(1).   For now Whitney faces the issue so many actors in Hollywood must come to terms with: when to give up on the dream of making it big. In her case, it may just be when the Court says so.