Divorce Has a Hefty Price Tag for Celebrities, Billionaires

Divorce is rarely pretty, but for the rich and famous, it can get downright ugly, having all the financial details played out in the media.

John Cleese, the lanky comedian who rose to fame as a member of Monty Python, is the latest to have the terms of his split made public.

According to a British media report, Cleese will hand over $19.7 million in a divorce settlement, making his estranged third wife richer than the actor himself. Cleese was left with about $16 million after papers to finalize the divorce settlement were filed in California last week.

Cleese's former wife Alyce Fay Eichelberg will receive $13 million in assets that include an apartment in New York, a London home and half of a Santa Barbara beach house, the Daily Telegraph reported. Cleese will also have to pay her about $984,000 a year for seven years, the paper reported. The actor married Eichelberg, a psychotherapist, in 1992.

Cleese and Eichelberg aren't the only power couple to have expensive marital troubles.

"Because of the Internet and the more salacious nature of global society, a lot of high-profile cases are getting played out in the media," said Laura Wasser, a Los Angeles-based divorce lawyer who has represented many celebrities. "It's not necessarily a good thing for the litigants or judicial officers. You should be able to have litigation as personal as a family law matter not open to the public."

What makes divorce settlements so challenging? In contested divorce cases, each party involved has differing ideas of what assets -- ranging from real estate to stocks -- their soon-to-be former spouse is entitled to.

"This lifestyle that these people have lived has been incorporated in the very soul of their being," said Malcolm Taub, a prominent divorce lawyer in New York. "Each of the parties has a sense of correctness and an absolute right to continue the life they had during the marriage."

High-profile divorces can be especially painful in cases that involve a celebrity spouse and a nonfamous party.

"One of the parties may feel dethroned," Taub said. "Usually that creates pain and usually the remedy of that is to seek at least a major share of the assets accumulated during marriage. Contested, high-profile divorces are fought with pain, issues and unfortunately a great deal of loss."

Other ex-husbands, such as Michael Jordan, Craig McCaw and Neil Diamond, are all paying their ex-wives generous amounts of alimony.

"There are always issues of valuation in high-profile cases, but there are also human issues," Taub said of big settlements. "People may want to avoid the spotlight of the public and are willing to make compromises in order to put the case behind them."

While some high-profile divorces have managed to stay sealed (Texas billionaire David Saperstein is rumored to have paid his ex-wife more than $500 million), here's a look at eight of the most expensive divorces of all time.

Rupert and Anna Murdoch -- $1.7 billion

Hailed as the most expensive divorce in the world, Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, 78, paid $1.7 billion of his assets, with $110 million of it in cash, to ex-wife Anna Murdoch Mann, after a bitter divorce. The ex-couple, who were married for 32 years and had three children, are now both remarried, but have had their fair share of heated debate since then.

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