Family Law Corner: Schwarzenegger and Shriver: Failure to Terminate

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver were all over the news in 2011 when they started their divorce amid revelations that Schwarzenegger fathered a child with their housekeeper. All eyes were on them as they faced dividing their $400 million community estate (reportedly there is no premarital agreement). Little did we all know that our anticipation would result in . . . nothing. For six years, the Terminator has not taken steps to terminate his marriage and neither has Shriver.

According to TMZ, Shriver is pointing the finger at Schwarzenegger for the delay claiming he is not “taking the necessary steps to end the marriage.” If the parties are not litigating temporary order issues, the only required necessary step is the financial disclosures. Family Code §§2103 and 2104 set forth the requirements for the preliminary financial disclosures. Parties are required to set forth the “identity of all assets in which the declarant has or may have an interest and all liabilities for which the declarant is or may be liable, regardless of the characterization of the asset or liability as community, quasi-community, or separate.” (Family Code §2104(c)(1)). If Schwarzenegger is not complying with the disclosure requirements, Shriver has remedies, including sanctions. Family Code §2107.If six years with no action sounds like too long, the State of California agrees. Code of Civil Procedure §§ 581 and 583.110 et. seq. make it clear that matters must be brought to trial or settlement within five years of when they are commenced or face involuntary dismissal. In an effort to force cases to trial or settlement, California Rule of Court 5.83 sets forth a process for tracking and reviewing the progress of a matter through status conferences or family centered case resolution conferences.

TMZ also reports that other sources say he is not standing in the way of the divorce and that their business people have been working on the financial split for years. Given their assets, the financial division would certainly take some time, but six years is a bit long.

So why is Schwarzenegger allowed to say “I’ll be back”…. much later to finish his divorce? There are many ways to avoid involuntary dismissal. If Schwarzenegger and Shriver are complying with the case conferences required in their county, they will be given additional time. A matter cannot be dismissed if there is a current child custody or support order in place. While all their children are adults now, they weren’t when this matter started and perhaps the Court system has not caught up with that fact. Time will tell when Shriver and Schwarzenegger actually decide to say “Hasta la vista, baby” (you knew that one was coming).