Divorce Considerations for Professional Athletes and Spouses

By | Published On: February 8, 2023

Professional athletes and their spouses must consider a number of issues when navigating the divorce process. From the unique compensation structure to the shorter career length and demanding travel schedule, it’s important for professional athletes and their spouses to understand the specific challenges they may face when divorcing.

Unique Compensation Structure for Professional Athletes

Professional athletes have a much more dynamic compensation structure than your typical W-2 employee. An athlete’s contract can have various categories of pay. For example, NFL players typically receive a combination of a base salary, guaranteed money, and bonuses, such as signing and roster bonuses. Their bonuses may be partially or fully vested at the time of divorce. If there is no prenuptial agreement and some of this pay is earned during the marriage but is not paid out until after the divorce, it is important to look at how much of that pay is marital versus separate.

Length of Career

Unlike many other careers, many professional athletes cannot be professional athletes into their 60s. The average retirement age of a NHL player is 28, and the average retirement age of a MLB player is 29.The shorter career length of professional athletes should be taken into consideration when crafting a divorce settlement.

Professional Athletes’ Travel Schedule

Travel schedules during certain parts of the year make a traditional parenting time schedule untenable. It is important to work with an attorney who can come up with a creative parenting time schedule to account for this. A creative schedule may shift parenting time to the off-season for the parent-athlete when the parent-athlete is not traveling.

Reputational Harm

It is important for professional athletes to work with a lawyer experienced in both public relations and collaborating with PR professionals during divorce to safeguard their reputation and career. This combination provides a strategic approach to managing the athlete’s image during this sensitive time.

Consulting with a Family Law Attorney

An experienced family law attorney can help you assess the issues particular to your family’s circumstances when seeking a divorce. Emily C. Baker is a family law attorney and partner at Tucker PLLC. For more information on navigating your unique divorce situation, contact Emily at ebaker@tuckerfamilylaw.com or call our office at 202-936-3636 to schedule a consultation.

Learn more about the Tucker Family Law Team