Former Clippers Owner Donald Sterling Files for Divorce

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Aug 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

Former Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, has frequently been in news stories over the past two years. He first made headlines in April of 2014, when he was banned for life by the National Basketball Association (NBA) after recordings of him allegedly making racist comments to his then-girlfriend V. Stiviano related to a picture she posted on Instagram of her with NBA legend Magic Johnson.

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During that series of events, and the threats of lawsuits and arbitration with the NBA that followed, Sterling was still married to his estranged wife. That fact that he was still married at the time he was forced to sell the team made matters significantly more complicated, since his wife was still entitled to an interest in the team and proceeds from the sale, according to many legal scholars.

According to a recent news feature from People, Sterling has finally filed for divorce from his estranged wife, Rochelle “Shelly” Sterling. The couple has been married for just short of 60 years, as documented in papers the 81-year-old Sterling recently filed. The grounds for the divorce were irreconcilable differences, which, as our Birmingham divorce attorneys can explain, essentially means the parties can not get along with each other, and it is not feasible for them to work out their differences and save the marriage. It should come as a surprise to no one that his marriage has failed, and it is not likely the couple will be able to work things out.

While the grounds for divorce may not be in dispute, there is a dispute regarding distribution of marital assets. His wife was the party who handled the sale of the team to the NBA, since he wanted no part of the process, or at least that is what was reported at the time. His wife would not have been able to proceed to sell the team without him; but, prior to the sale, there was a conservancy proceeding, during which two independent doctors testified, and this allowed his wife to negotiate the sale of the team, which was eventually purchased by Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, for a reported $2 billion.

She received the proceeds from the sale, and Sterling has claimed his wife never gave him his fair share of the proceeds. Because we are talking about billions of dollars, this is obviously a significant point of contention.   Since the sale of his former NBA franchise, Sterling has filed a case to contest the finding that he was mentally incapacitated and unable to manage his own affairs.

Shelly Sterling has stated she had planned to file for divorce from her estranged husband for more than 20 years. She said she went as far as filling out all of the paperwork and met with a number of divorce attorneys, but never got as far as filing the paperwork to the start divorce, because her financial adviser kept telling her to wait, as it was not yet the appropriate time to seek a divorce.

While she was managing her estranged husband's financial affairs, she filed a lawsuit against V. Stiviano, claiming her husband unjustly enriched her over the years, and a judge agreed. Stiviano was order to pay the family $800,000 and to vacate the house she was living in, valued at around $2 million, which Sterling had given her to use as her primary residence.

Additional Resources:

Former Clippers Owner Donald Sterling Files for Divorce from Estranged Wife, Shelly, August 9, 2015, People, by Drew Mackie

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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