Simon Cowell Scandal: Why Cite Adultery as a Grounds for Divorce?

Simon Cowell found himself in the legal spotlight last week when news broke that the TV and music mogul has been named as a co-respondent in the New York divorce proceedings of real estate developer Andrew Silverman and his wife, Lauren Silverman. What’s the latest?

Andrew Silverman, a longtime friend of Cowell’s, filed for divorce in New York under the grounds of adultery. Much like rules pertaining to adultery when filing for divorce in New Jersey, when an extramarital affair is given as the reason for a marriage’s demise, the name of the co-respondent (aka, the person it is alleged carried on an affair with the spouse) must be named in the divorce complaint. The co-respondent is then served notice and has 30 days to respond to the charges.

In Cowell’s case, the X-Factor judge is rumored to have had an affair with Lauren Silverman beginning sometime last year. Reportedly, Silverman is now 10 weeks pregnant with Cowell’s child. The Silverman’s also have a prenuptial agreement in which Lauren Silverman would allegedly pocket three million dollars after 10 years of marriage, a milestone the couple reached a few months ago.

So why not just file for “irreconcilable differences,” the no-fault grounds for divorce a majority of couples cite as a way to get the process underway without the added burden of dealing with charges of adultery?

There can be a few reasons for this:

– In cases where a prenuptial agreement includes a “cheating clause” that cancels or changes the agreement if one spouse has an extramarital affair, filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery is a way to bolster the case for activating this clause. The Silverman’s prenup is confidential, of course, but it’s being speculated that it contained similar language to this. (See our blog, “Three Ways Cheating Can Affect Your Divorce Settlement“)

– In divorces where contentious issues may be at stake, such as child custody disputes, one spouse may try to use a “fault grounds” such as adultery to lend validity to other issues, such as helping them make the case that they are a better parent. The Silverman’s have a seven-year old son, and it appears custody is at tense negotiation stages.

– It truly is the reason for the divorce. In cases where the couple got along just fine, for all intents and purposes, until one spouse surprised the other by announcing that he or she was leaving the marriage to pursue a relationship with another person, filing for divorce under the grounds of adultery might be the most appropriate response on the part of the spouse left in the dark.

– On the other hand, if one spouse feels unduly wronged when they go to file for divorce, filing under a “no fault” ground of irreconcilable differences might seem like letting the other spouse off easy, even if it is the true underlying reason for the marital breakdown. Filing for divorce under the grounds of adultery can fill some kind of emotional need on the part of the plaintiff.

Time will tell what happens in the Silverman’s case, and what role Simon Cowell will play as proceedings move forward. What grounds for divorce best describe why you’re deciding to end your marriage? Our blog post on “Grounds for Divorce” has further descriptions of grounds for divorce in New Jersey.