Randy Kessler, Atlanta divorce attorney to the stars, has been galloping on the media circuit, sharing expertise on the recent shocking announcement of the uncoupling of Melinda and Bill Gates.
Kessler has been interviewed by CNN, HLN, People magazine, Yahoo Finance and FOX 5 Atlanta, shedding light on the intricacies of high-profile divorces.
Although he isn’t handling this one, Kessler’s list of those he has either represented or opposed, reads like a Who’s Who in sports, entertainment and even politics, such as representing the wife of Sen. Raphael Warnock recently in proceedings against him. Others he has opposed are celebs Michael Jordan, Evander Holyfield, Ludacris and Usher. Buckhead resident Cardi B and Cam Newton are recent representees.
Kessler is seen as calm, competent and willing to explore ways to work things out, versus throwing plates in the “The War of the Roses.”
Contrasting the Gates’ divorce versus Jeff Bezos’, Kessler alludes to them being as different as two unique snowflakes but sharing more commonality in the way they were handled.
“Neither resulted in a messy, public courtroom battle. Both used good attorneys who kept it private. Just like no two royal family divorces are alike, they still feel similar. Both couples understand the tremendous value in privacy and self-determination so as not to let a judge, who may carry his/her own biases and preconceived notions, decide their future.”
In estimating legal fees for a Gates-like settlement, Kessler proffered an extreme guess. “Even if the parties went to their lawyers and told them exactly how they wanted to settle, the amount of detail, planning and paperwork, must have exceeded $100,000 per side, if not $1 million per side.”
In terms of staying out of the public eye, Kessler suggests the option of transferring title to assets into the recipient’s name and declaring that each keeps what’s titled in their own name.
“In this case, the parties will attempt to not publicly file the agreement and to secure copies with their lawyers and/or elsewhere. Those documents will never be needed by the court unless one party accuses the other of non-compliance. The court may wish to privately preview the agreement to ensure it’s not beyond what it would normally allow. It’s rare that courts disallow or don’t approve settlement agreements. Recently in the Derek Chauvin divorce, the judge didn’t approve of the settlement, giving all assets to the wife, because that judge was concerned that there may be no money left for Chauvin’s victims who may sue him.”
On “friendlier” workouts, Kessler said, “There’s almost always some ‘legal ping-pong.’ Our firm, known for being ready and able to go to trial if needed, probably 80 percent-plus settle without a trial. Many firms focus more heavily on settlement, so the average may be even higher.”
Kessler’s advice to amicable settlement: “Do all you can to explore that. Don’t ‘settle at all costs,’ but settlement in and of itself can be very valuable. It can save attorneys’ fees, emotional scars, and valuable time so that each can move on. For those couples with children, resolving matters out of court will almost always make it easier for them to co-parent or communicate better than if they bad-mouth partners in open court in a trial.”
About the lack of prenup in the Gates case, Kessler mused, “Melinda Gates gave up spousal support. With the assets she will receive, there is likely no need for alimony. It’s not uncommon for very wealthy people not to have a prenup. Prince died without a will!
“Low-income people may actually need a prenup more than the wealthy; whatever assets each has is presumably more important to their survival. Neither Gates nor Bezos will be financially strained no matter the division of assets. The reasons for prenups vary. Some want to preserve one specific asset, while others may want to prove to their partner that they WILL be okay if there is a divorce.”
Both sides in the Gates divorce used multiple law firms. Kessler concludes, “My step-grandfather, a furrier, used to say, ‘measure twice, cut once.’ Or ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ Here it might have been a few pounds, or tons of prevention.”