What Can We Learn from Celebrity Divorces So Far in 2024?

We’re one-third of the way through 2024, and Us Weekly has already reported on a flurry of celebrity divorces. Details are sketchy, so it’s impossible to draw any firm conclusions, but the circumstances of the breakups can be insightful. Given our experience counseling clients in divorce cases, we can certainly share our impressions of the factors that might be at play.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher

First, let’s address the biggest names on the list. We are told that comedian Sacha Baron Cohen and actress Isla Fisher have split after nearly 14 years of marriage and three children. Cohen first gained notoriety as the creator of Da Ali G Show, in which he played a variety of oddball characters earnestly interviewing unwitting guests. In the first few episodes, Cohen was able to sandbag guests to great comedic effect. But as more episodes aired, his guests had caught onto his schtick and showed up prepared. The interviews began to appear scripted and flat.

Similarly, Cohen's "mocumentary" film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan caught average people off-guard with its comedic effect and real-world humiliation. Released in 2006, Borat was a huge hit and might be the funniest film of the last twenty years. However, Cohen’s subsequent attempts to recapture the Borat magic have been lackluster and generally off-putting. The schtick has worn thin.

“Thin schtick” is a danger in marriage and show business. Couples need to “get real” with each other and get out of their ruts occasionally to keep their relationship fresh. To their credit, Mr. Cohen and Ms. Fisher have stayed together for more than 20 years. That’s a lengthy time tenure, especially as show business unions go. No reason for the split was given, and the parting seems to be amicable, since the couple filed jointly for divorce and released a joint statement to the public.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher

Another big name is Tori Spelling, the daughter of famed TV producer Aaron Spelling, who has had a lengthy career as an actress/producer. She had been married to her second husband, Dean McDermott, with whom she’s had five children, since 2006. Spelling officially filed for divorce on March 29, nine months after separating from McDermott. The cause of the split seems to have been McDermott’s alcohol abuse, though reports claim he is now sober. If so, it’s a time-worn cautionary tale that substance abuse will destroy a relationship. Getting sober can help secure one’s future, but it doesn’t erase the past.

Former Backstreet Boys singer AJ McLean and wife Rochelle McLean are divorcing after 13 years of marriage and two children. The couple issued a joint statement, saying their hope that a trial separation might lead to reconciliation did not materialize. McLean, has tried his hand at acting and directing but has struggled to forge a career beyond his boy band phase. Show business is a tough racket, and we cannot underestimate how career frustrations can intrude on the marital relationship.

As for some lesser-known figures on the list, several seem to be victims of the Fleeting Fame Syndrome. Either they got together under magical circumstances they could not sustain, or the relationship hit the rocks after their lives were opened up to public scrutiny. The couples include:

  • The Bachelorette couple Rachel Lindsay and Bryan Abasolo split after four years of marriage. The couple met in 2017 during season 13 of the reality dating show. They got engaged during the finale. Abasalo, a chiropractor, filed for divorce and has requested spousal support.
  • Another reality TV couple, Alexia and Todd Nepola, who appeared on The Real Housewives of Miami, have called it quits after nearly three years of marriage.
  • In the reality show Big Brother, Christmas Abbott and Memphis Garrett are divorcing after less than two years of marriage. Mr. Garrett, previously married and with a daughter from that union, told Us Weekly he “did not want to have to file for divorce. I was doing everything in my power to work on our marriage. I only wish the very best in life for her and Loyal.” Loyal Atticus Abbott is Ms. Abbott’s son from a previous relationship with Benjamin Bunn.
  • Chelsea Lazkani, who appeared on 18 episodes of the reality show Selling Sunset, has filed for divorce from her husband, Jeff, after seven years of marriage and two children.

Under any circumstances, fame is difficult to deal with. It is both seductive and demanding. It is every bit as intoxicating and habit-forming as alcohol or drugs. Yet, in some respects, fame can also be clarifying. Many people imagine that life will be more exciting, expansive, and fulfilling if they can achieve a certain level of notoriety. Many people imagine that life will be more exciting, expansive, and fulfilling, if they can achieve a certain level of notoriety. And for a certain personality type, all that can be true. Classic extroverts thrive in the spotlight and draw energy from an appreciative audience.

However, many people who imagined fame might solve some of their problems soon discover that they don’t like being famous. The constant demand to “be on” can be exhausting. They begin to resent the spotlight and covet a return to anonymity. When partners react differently to life in the public eye, it’s difficult to maintain a relationship.

This dynamic does not only impact celebrities. To a lesser extent, any married couple has to cope with the vicissitudes of their professional careers. Many two-career couples aspire, at least initially, to be seen as a power couple. But tensions can build when one spouse’s career outpaces the other’s. Even in marriages where one spouse is clearly the primary breadwinner, so there’s no career competition involved, spouses can possess varying levels of ambition. Tension can build between a contented spouse and one who has loftier goals.

Of course, it’s advisable to test your compatibility in this area before getting married, but that’s much more easily said than done. How well do any of us know ourselves before we get out in the world and encounter “for real” the challenges and opportunities we’ve only imagined? Life is a journey of self-discovery, and many people learn that they are different than they’d always assumed. Experience bestows clarity, bringing differences into sharp focus. In many cases, couples have to admit that those differences are irreconcilable.

Whether you are a celebrity or a face in the crowd, you’ll likely discover that you didn’t truly know yourself until the world teaches you who you are. At that point, you might decide your best path forward requires change. When that moment happens, it might be time to speak to an experienced divorce lawyer.


Dror Bikel

Dror Bikel co-founded Bikel Rosenthal & Schanfield, New York’s best known firm for high-conflict matrimonial disputes. A New York Superlawyer℠ and twice recognized (2020 and 2021) New York Divorce Trial Lawyer of the Year, Dror’s reputation as a fearsome advocate in difficult custody and divorce disputes has led him to deliver solid outcomes in some of New York’s most complex family law trials. Attorney Bikel is a frequent commentator on high profile divorces for national and international media outlets. His book The 1% Divorce - When Titans Clash was a 5-category Amazon bestseller.

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