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Camille Cosby- To Divorce or Not to Divorce, that is the Question

In light of the recent rape allegations against Bill Cosby, many are wondering whether Camille Cosby, his wife, will be filing for divorce. Bill Cosby married Camille in 1964; they have been married 50 years. Her and Bill had five children together—both her and the children were the storylines for the famous NBC series “The Cosby Show.” Over time, their marriage has taken some rocky turns, but has surprisingly outlasted the obstacles, at least until now.

You may remember when Bill Cosby admitted he had an extramarital affair with Shawn Berkes after having being blackmailed by an alleged daughter, Autumn Jackson, in 1997. A few years after, in a 2000 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Camille mentioned that the reason she had not gotten divorced was because, “You cleanse yourself of all of that baggage, and you look at each other and determine whether the relationship is worth salvaging, whether you really love each other and want to be together.” Although Bill had been accused of sexual misconduct in the past, it would be a shock if the revival of the rape allegations would not end in divorce. One thing is cheating, another is rape.

Let’s see what she could get if divorced in Texas. Since she has been married 50 years, she would be entitled to what we call spousal maintenance. In Texas, we do not have alimony- although parties can agree to contractual alimony. In order to qualify for spousal maintenance in Texas, a spouse seeking support must not have enough property at the time of divorce to provide for their minimum basic needs (Texas Family Code Section 8.051). In addition, one of the following circumstances must exist:

  • The spouses were married for ten years or longer, and the spouse seeking support is unable to earn enough income to provide of their basic needs; or
  • The spouse seeking support has custody of a child of the marriage who requires special care and supervision because of a mental or physical disability, preventing the custodial spouse from earning enough income for basic needs; or
  • The spouse seeking support is unable to earn enough income to provide for basic needs because of a disability (physical or mental) as defined by the Texas Family Code; or
  • One spouse is convicted of committing family violence against the other spouse or the other spouse’s child during the marriage, if the violence occurred during the divorce proceedings or within two years before the filing of the divorce action.

A Court has a presumption against an order for spousal maintenance, and to overcome the assumption, the spouse seeking support will need to convince the Court that she or he has made a good faith effort to earn income or to develop skills to provide for basic needs during the separation and divorce proceedings (Texas Family Code Section 8.053). Since the estate of Camille and Bill Cosby is probably quite large (an estimated $400 million), the Court would not be inclined to grant spousal maintenance to Camille.

In dividing the estate of the parties, “the court shall order a division of the state of the parties in a manner that the court deems just and right, having due regard for the rights of each party and any children of the marriage” (Texas Family Code Section 7.001). So, while Camille may not be entitled to spousal maintenance, she may get a larger piece of the pie in the division of the marital estate because Texas is not a 50/50 estate- it is an equitable division, not equal. The Court will consider a list of factors to determine the split of the estate including the following of both parties:

  • earning capacity;
  • level of education;
  • employment opportunities;
  • gap between earnings;
  • health;
  • age;
  • need for future support;
  • who is awarded custody of the children;
  • amount of separate property;
  • duration of marriage;
  • condition of personal finances;
  • tax consequences;
  • attorney’s fees;
  • fraud;
  • fault in breakup of the marriage;
  • wasting of assets;
  • condition of personal finances.

It is unclear whether the Court would order a greater division of the estate to Camille Cosby as the estate is so large. However, it could be argued that since Bill probably is at fault in the breakup of the marriage and his earning capacity is still quite high, Camille should get a greater portion of the pie.

As Bill and Camille Cosby have no minor children, there would be no child-related issues.

It will be interesting to see how whether or not Camille will stand by Bill Cosby’s side as more information is revealed with the rape allegations.