You’ve Been Served
May 5, 2022
BY: Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O'Cathain & O'Cathain
How to Deal With a Child Custody Dispute, and Other Issues With Your Ex
What was in the envelope? Did he know? What was happening?!
Recently Twitter and the Internet were ablaze with the discussion of how director/actress Olivia Wilde was served with custody papers by her ex-husband (and co-parent) actor Jason Sudeikis, former star of Saturday Night Live and Ted Lasso himself (USA Today covered the story here).
According to various reports, Wilde was served the papers while onstage at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, an entertainment industry trade show. She was slipped a “manilla envelope labelled ‘Personal & Confidential’” while speaking to over 4,000 people about an upcoming movie she directed. According to the L.A. Times Sudeikis has condemned the action— by a process server company— as “inappropriate” (story here).
What is going on? And how does this affect separated, divorced and/or co-parents who are not celebrities? Let’s talk:
- Child custody is a common area of disagreement in divorce. We have pages on our website on the area of child custody, as it’s one of the most frequent topics of argument in divorce (the other big one, of course, is finances). Sudeikis and Wilde have a son and a daughter together and, although once engaged, separated in 2020 without ever marrying. According to various outlets the custody matter itself pertains to location of the children— both under the age of 10.
Well, obviously this does not keep with the civil tone we always counsel clients to use when dealing with their co-parent, but the truth is clients sometimes have no control over when process servers actually serve a person with documents. Rules vary from state to state, and while some servers will consult with legal representation and/or clients, others don’t. (In this NPR article a process server speculates, “This was like a last-ditch effort.”) And while process serving of legal documents can be in public, surely we can all agree this was a little too public!
- How do I avoid getting into a custody disagreement? The number one answer here is, be reasonable. Whether debating location or relocation of children, parenting time, parenting rights, etc., the most important thing is to be fair and reasonable when assessing what you and your co-parent (and/or former spouse) want. Make sure the standard the best interest of the child is kept at the forefront, and that issues as formative and sensitive as custody is not used as a bargaining chip in divorce.
- Be kind and civil. We have no idea, of course, if Sudeikis reached out in private to his co-parent (as mentioned, he condemned the action through a statement), but, as the plan is for you to co-parent with this person for the rest of your life, try to be as kind as civil as you can. (A good rule of thumb, of course, is to ask yourself, How would I feel if this happened to me?) Remember: at this point, it’s not about you, your marriage, your divorce, your former relationship— it’s about your children.
Of course, most of us aren’t famous, won’t be featured on the Internet and in the news cycle, and won’t have to, thankfully, deal with this level of public attention. But anyone in a divorce will deal with difficult matters— potentially a custody disagreement— and how we behave will make all the difference, for ourselves and for our children.
Dealing with child custody and/or other family matters issues? Reach out to the Family Law Department at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC. Call: (201) 488-1161 or visit: https://lmllawyers.com/family-law/.