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Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009

Court could take ‘Jon & Kate’s 8’ off hit series

USA Today

In the Jon-minus-Kate legal equation, it’s the remaining eight whom some experts worry about most.

“I’m really sad to think their custody might be part of what we’re observing on day-to-day basis,” says Mary Cushing Doherty, a family law attorney in Norristown, Pa., located in Montgomery County, where Kate Gosselin filed for divorce Monday.
The question for the court could be whether it’s “in the best interest of these children to have their lives on TV as children of divorce — is that way too much emotional baggage for any minor to have in their lives as children of divorced parents on TV? I think so.” This means the court could order that the children no longer can participate on TLC’s “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” which returns with new episodes Aug. 3. The network suspended filming on its top-rated program Tuesday to allow the Gosselin family to “regroup.”
Even if the parents reach a private custody agreement, there’s still a chance “the long arm of the law will reach in and say, ‘I think these kids need a child advocate because people have not been looking out for their best interests,’ ” Doherty says.
In a statement, TLC said it “continues to support the family and will work closely with them to determine the best way to continue to tell their story as they navigate through this difficult time.” After the hiatus, a “modified schedule will be in place to support the family’s transition.”
Another thorny issue could involve splitting the estate, which isn’t just about who gets the $1.3 million house. “What’s fascinating about this case is that it’s not a one-celebrity couple, where he’s the celebrity and she’s the dutiful spouse,” Doherty says. Any assets acquired between the marriage and separation are Jon and Kate’s together, but if, for instance, Kate lands a book deal detailing the rise and fall of her marriage, Jon could argue that he has a claim, Doherty says.
Also, the question remains as to the content of their contract with TLC (the network has not commented thus far). If ratings dwindle after the divorce and TLC cancels the show, either Jon or Kate could say, “Well, gee, thanks, you ruined our marriage and now we don’t have this cash cow,” so one could demand a bigger chunk of the estate, Doherty says.
“The interesting issue is who’s more likely to be the celebrity going forward,” says Harry Byrne, a family law attorney in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., also in Montgomery County. “Is she more likely going to have a steady stream of income, or is he? If someone were to say, ‘We’ve got a TV deal with her for the next 10 years and we’re not interested in him,’ he’s a better candidate to get worthy assets.”
Atypically for divorce proceedings, Kate did not request child support or alimony. “The interesting thing” is going to be whether Jon asks for financial help, Byrne says.