Kobe Bryant divorce: Prenup could have 'saved half of his fortune'
The apparent lack of a prenuptial agreement -- coupled with 10 years of marriage -- will likely significantly increase the size of Vanessa Bryant's divorce settlement with Kobe Bryant, legal experts said.
Vanessa Bryant's mother told The Times several years ago that the couple did not sign a prenuptial agreement when they tied the knot in 2001. If true, that would entitle Vanessa to half of their community property.
Christopher C. Melcher, a Woodland Hills-based family law attorney, said a prenup with the Lakers star would have limited Vanessa Bryant's rights for spousal support and some property rights.
"It could have saved half of his fortune," he said.
Some estimates put Kobe Bryant's net worth at $150 million. Legal experts said Vanessa Bryant will probably receive at least $75 million in addition to ongoing spousal and child support.
Last season, as the NBA's highest-paid player, Kobe Bryant earned $24.8 million in salary, and his contract extension signed last year is worth $83.5 million. Forbes magazine estimates that with endorsement deals, Bryant last year earned $53 million before taxes and agent fees. In recent years, he has added Turkish Airlines and Mercedes-Benz to his portfolio of endorsements.
The fact the marriage lasted 10 years gives Vanessa Bryant several advantages under California divorce law. After passing the 10-year mark, attorney Dmitry Gorin said, a marriage is defined as a lengthy one, which means the spouse is allowed to maintain her standard of living after the split.
Gorin said Vanessa Bryant may be entitled to permanent spousal support and may even be part of Kobe Bryant's retirement plans. She'll probably get "more than enough for many lifetimes," Gorin said.
In the petition filed Friday, Vanessa Bryant cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the divorce. In what appears to be an effort to keep the details of their split out of the public eye, the couple said in a joint statement late Friday that they had "resolved all issues incident to their divorce privately."
-- Richard Winton and Rick Rojas
Photo: Kobe and Vanessa Bryant attend the skills competition at the NBA's All-Star Saturday Night in Dallas in February. Credit: LM Otero / Associated Press