Burning Question: How Will Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's Divorce Play Out?

Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow (Hilary Weeks/Goop.com)
What will the Paltrow-Martin divorce look like? Will it get ugly (à la Kelly Rutherford), or be smooth sailing like TomKat's split?

Whatever happens with these two — other than the mindful divorcing that likely will follow their conscious uncoupling — do not expect a "Real Housewives"-style drama to play out in the courts. Power attorneys of the stars tell me that, when it comes to mega-A-list couples, the typical course for a celebrity split is, above all things, quiet. Think back-channel negotiations, with managers acting as discreet go-betweens, most likely overseen by a private judge who operates far from the circus that is your typical family court.

In other words, do not be surprised if there is not a single word about this split, or the Paltrow-Martin's postmarital arrangements, in any public document. Ever.

Except for, you know, "irreconcilable differences" checked off in a little box.

"They both have a lot to lose by making a public mess of this," says celebrity family law attorney Steve Mindel. "And I don't think they want their children exposed to the court system, and the court system is open in the United States.

"I would not expect any public documents to tell us anything other than name, rank, and serial number."

Unlike many other jurisdictions, California is considered particularly friendly to the idea of private judges, who charge between $400 to $750 an hour for their discreet, but perfectly legal, oversight of a case.

Not that there’s likely to be much of a case. Mindel says he wouldn't be surprised if Martin and Paltrow, acting through their managers, bang out a custody deal and rubber-stamp their prenup — because, c'mon, they have to have a prenup — before they even formally file for a legal split.

"I would expect this to be just like Michael Jordan divorce, where these two announce they've separated, they get the media blitz, everybody knows they are getting divorced, and now [the] managers [and] the lawyers have all the time in the world to work out the deal," Mindel speculates. "After that's done, there will be a court filing simply saying that Gwyneth and Chris are filing for a divorce, asking the judge to terminate the marriage on such-and-such a date."

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No petitioning for a hearing on custody. No public whining over money. That's all been settled behind closed doors.

As for where the two will file, consider this: They've reportedly been living in Southern California, or, at least, hanging out there, for several months. And, again, if they have a prenup (really? Could they not have a prenup?) it's well known among legal circles that California looks more favorably upon such agreements, than, say, England, which is Martin's native soil.

Not that residency is likely a factor, here. Location only becomes important if the divorcing couple has a public disagreement over a facet of their union, such as custody or assets. And, again, Paltrow and Martin are probably way to smart to air that stuff in a family court.

And finally, what will all this privacy likely cost the couple? Well, a typical civilian divorce budget this ain't.

"A divorce for normal people? Maybe $30,000 to $60,000 total," Mindel estimates.

But folks like Martins and Paltrows? Try $35,000 just for the private judge alone... and well into the six figures for the attorneys.

That shouldn't be a problem, since Martin are Paltrow have a reported net worth well over $100 million.

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Leslie Gornstein is an entertainment writer and the host of the weekly Hollywood gossip podcast The Fame Fatale.