Family Law Corner: Hasselhoff Underwater, Asks Court for Life Preserver

David Hasselhoff's superstar days of driving a fancy Trans Am and frolicking on the beach have past, and he is asking his ex-wife of sixteen years, Pamela Bach--also a former television regular--to get a job or live on less support.  Beginning in 2006, Hasselhoff paid $21,000 per month in spousal support to Bach. Last year, Hasselhoff asked a court to reduce the amount of support, claiming he has no assets and was using his retirement funds to pay his spousal support. The parties settled out of court and Hasselhoff has been paying $10,000 per month ever since. Just a year later, Hasselhoff is back in court saying a 50% reduction is not enough, he wants to terminate spousal support for good.

Pursuant to Family Code §4336, “the court retains jurisdiction indefinitely in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage…where the marriage is of long duration” and a marriage of long duration is defined as “a marriage of 10 years or more.”  In contrast, for a marriage of less than ten years duration, Family Code §4320(l) states that support “generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage.”  This ten-year mark garners a lot of attention. For example, Tom Cruise reportedly filed for divorce from Nicole Kidman just before the ten-year mark to avoid possible lifetime support.

Despite the attention paid to the ten-year mark, Family Code §4320 and numerous family law cases point out that length of the marriage is but one factor in determining the length of support.  Other factors relate generally to the ability of the supported spouse to support his or herself.  See In re Marriage of Morrison (1978) 20 Cal.3d 437; In re Marriage of Ackerman (2006) 146 Cal.App.4th 191; In re Marriage of Schmir (2005) 134 Cal.App.4th 43.

From the sound of it, Hasselhoff is trying a multi-pronged approach to ending his support obligation, claiming that he cannot afford to pay support and the support obligation is preventing him from retiring. He is also claiming that Bach has had a “failure to make any efforts to become self-supporting, contribute to her own support, or even make any efforts to gain job skills." Bach, for her part, claims to be trying to re-start her acting career. Nonetheless, her last role (according to IMDB) was in 2003. She also claims that her years of supporting Hasselhoff's career during the marriage entitle her to continued support.

At 65 years old, Hasselhoff is at retirement age and he claims to have paid more than $2.5 million in spousal support so far. Coupled with the fact that he has paid support for 11 years on a 16 year marriage, Hasselhoff has a good argument for ending support. However, the marriage was long term, and Bach’s ability to earn compared with Hasselhoff, as well as his assets, may change the balance in her favor. Even KITT the supercar may not be able to save the Hoff from this crisis.