A Timeline of Celebrity Divorce Queen Laura Wasser's Ride to the Top


It’s been a busy summer for broken Hollywood hearts and families: Jen and Ben, Megan and Brian, Kourtney and Scott, Gwen and Gavin—and Laura A. Wasser, attorney at Wasser, Cooperman & Carter, commonly referred to by TMZ (among other outlets) as the industry’s “Disso Queen” (dissolution of marriage, that is) has been at the center of it all.

Wasser’s credentials are, at this point, fairly well-known among certain circles. Born in Los Angeles, she went to UC Berekley and got her law degree from Loyola Law School in 1994. The daughter of Dennis Wasser, who was described as “America’s most feared divorce lawyer” by The Mirror in 2004, Laura’s move into family and divorce law has been written about as if it was inevitable; father and daughter are featured back-to-back in a 2011 Town & Country profile on the best divorce lawyers in the country. (A piece in The Daily Telegraph went even further, claiming that, “Mr Wasser gave his daughter the middle name Allison so her initials would spell LAW.”)

An interview from 2012, however, proves that Laura wasn’t always necessarily set on being a divorce lawyer—until she she got a divorce herself, that is:

“For a minute, I worked at the Western Law Center for disability rights, writing up briefs to put safety things in public bathrooms,” she says. “But then I split up with my husband, and I needed to make a living. So I told my dad, ‘I don’t think it’s going to work out’. And he said, ‘Great, take care of it.’ That was my first case.”

While her father has represented people like Billie Jean King, Mia Farrow, Jennifer Lopez, Harrison Ford’s former wife Melissa Mathison, Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, etc., Laura’s client list has been devoted to mostly younger Hollywood names. A 2006 Los Angles Times article on an FBI investigation into Wasser Sr. was involved in made a brief mention of Laura (despite her lack of involvement with that particular case), being careful to point out what she brings to Wasser, Cooperman & Carter.

Wasser’s photogenic 37-year-old daughter, Laura, is one of his closest associates and handles the marital woes of young celebs like Jessica Simpson and Angelina Jolie. The pair even consulted on the Jim Carrey comedy “Liar, Liar,” about a divorce lawyer whose life is turned topsy-turvy when his son makes a birthday wish that his dad stop lying for 24 hours. The movie’s producer, Brian Grazer, had also hired the Wasser firm to handle a request for more child support from his ex-wife.

Since getting her law degree, Wasser’s star has risen higher and higher, and she cemented it with her 2013 book It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way: How to Divorce Without Destroying Your Family or Bankrupting Yourself.

What’s Wasser’s secret? For all that she’s been labeled an emotional pillar for her clients, it doesn’t always sound like that that’s the case. As she explained to Dame Magazine:

Do you end up giving emotional support as well as legal support?
Not really. I tell them that a) your therapist costs less than I do, and b) what do I know? I’ve got two kids with two different dads, I’m not the person to give you relationship advice.

Wasser did not respond to an email request for comment about this article; we can assume her schedule is rather packed. But her skill seems to be her quiet ruthlessness (a quality often valued in attorneys). As Town & Country pointed out, she certainly doesn’t shy away from press. But for as much fame as Wasser has both courted and garnered, it’s her clients that ultimately get the attention. So here they are.

(Note: the first name listed indicates the person who filed, and, unless otherwise noted, the person represented by Wasser.)

October 2001, Angela McAfee herpes lawsuit against Stevie Wonder

Wasser’s first headline-grabbing case involved Stevie Wonder, who was being sued by his ex-girlfriend for $30 million for allegedly giving her herpes. (Wasser co-represented Wonder with Johnnie Cochran.) “The only breach that has been made is one of Stevie’s trust in someone he had heretofore called a friend,” Wasser said. Wonder later countersued, a judge ordered mediation, and how did it end? As one profile explains:

It was high-profile and “juicy,” as Wasser remembers. Her opening salvo came in the form of a written statement to the press: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. … We’re sorry that Ms. McAfee has chosen not to be truthful. … Since [Wonder] does not have herpes, one can only wonder where she contracted the disease.”
And then — just as suddenly as the excitement began — it all seemed to fade away. There is nothing to be found on the resolution of the case. “And you won’t find anything,” Wasser confirms with a sly grin stretching across her lips. “When I have media calling me up and saying, ‘Wait a minute, what happened?’ that’s a good thing, I think.”

May 2003, Angelina Jolie, Billy Bob Thornton

Wasser really put herself on the map with this case, when Jolie filed against Billy Bob after three years, just four months after she’d adopted her son Maddox. “The best we can say is it was amicable and they’re glad it was completed expeditiously,” Wasser said, according to the AP.

December 2003, Sophia Coppola, Spike Jonze

Jonze hired Wasser after Coppola filed for divorce, which, though it appeared amicable at the time, would be speculated about later on when Coppola made Lost in Translation, appearing to have channeled her frustrations about a rumored flirtation between Cameron Diaz and Jonze into the plot of the film.

May 2004, Kiefer Sutherland, Elizabeth Kelly Winn Sutherland

Though Wasser-repped Kiefer filed in 2004, and his divorce wasn’t finalized until 2008, the couple had actually been separated since 1999.

March 2005, Denise Richards, Charlie Sheen

Richards first filed against Sheen in 2005, but they pair reconciled, before she filed again the following year. In the second filing, as The Smoking Gun reported, Richards claimed Sheen “assaulted her and threatened her life during a December 30 incident at the actress’s Los Angeles home.” Sheen’s instability seems to have ensured that their relationship has not gotten much less rocky since then.

March 2005, Alexander Payne, Sandra Oh

Though their separation was reportedly mutual, it took two years to finalize the financials; as People magazine noted, “Oh was seeking spousal support. In his divorce response, Payne sought to deny those payments.”

December 2005, Jessica Simpson, Nick Lachey

Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson, shockingly or not, had no prenup when they wed for the world to see. Simpson filed, using another well-known Hollywood divorce lawyer Robert Kaufman, whom Wasser has gone up against many times.

December 2005, Johnathon Schaech, Christina Applegate

Applegate’s husband used Wasser when he filed for divorce.

August 2006, Travis Barker, Shanna Moakler

Barker and Moakler had a rocky road of it, reconciling before they officially divorced, and even living together after it. Child custody got tense as well; Moakler eventually asked for a “thorough child custody evaluation,” but Wasser said that her client wouldn’t comment on those issues: “Travis will not be discussing any claims made regarding his children in any media forum as he feels it’s exploitative and not child-centered.”

November 2006, Britney Spears, Kevin Federline

Wasser’s decision to represent Britney Spears in her divorce against Kevin Federline came at the start of a difficult few years for the pop star. Spears originally asked for legal and physical custody of their children, and sources told TMZ that “hotshot divorce lawyer Laura Wasser drafted an airtight prenuptial agreement before the couple married.” Though their divorce was finalized in 2007, and the couple was set up to share custody, things would change soon after.

“I think she’s OK with the terms,” Miss Wasser told reporters on Monday outside the Los Angeles court. “I think they were each hoping they would have more custody time, but hopefully that can be worked out.”

Wasser would represent Britney in her child welfare case, but soon, rumors flew that she’d dropped her star client. Wasser originally denied those claims, but they did end up parting ways, briefly:

“I don’t want anyone to perceive that we’re dumping Britney,” Wasser said. “There comes a time when some fresh blood is necessary.”

As the Sunday Herald Sun reported, according to some sources, Spears did seem to rely on Wasser more than the lawyer was likely happy with:

A friend of Laura Wasser, Spears’ former lawyer, says: ‘’Laura would be out at dinner and she would get 20 calls from Britney about every little decision. It was ‘Y’all this, y’all that’. She’d even want her advice on what to wear. Laura quit a few weeks ago because she just couldn’t take it any more.’’

In June 2008, however, they paired up again—while Britney was under conservatorship.

Her attorney, Laura Wasser, says Britney will get more than the two visits and one overnight per week she currently has. “Britney’s doing great. She’s very pleased,” Wasser said. “The kids are with her right now.”

Also in November 2006, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe split. Reports from that time indicated that both “asked Wasser to rep both of them in their split, but Wasser declined for personal reasons.”

April 2007, Anna Faris, Ben Indra

Though their split seemed basic at the time, Faris later said “fame destroyed my first marriage.”

December 2008, Kate Walsh, Alex Young

Young actually filed in November, but Walsh counterfiled the month after, contesting the date of their separation. Though the pair were only married for a little over a year, their divorce took a few years to work out, as they were warring over things like whether movie producer Young would get spousal support and more.

January 2009 Naveen Andrews, Elena Eustache

Wasser repped Andrews in a case worthy of a soap opera:

Naveen Andrews, who plays Sayid Jarrah on Lost, has won custody of his son, Naveen Joshua, despite being accused of poisoning the tyke by the kid’s mother, Elena Eustache. Oooh, the mystery! TMZ says L.A. Superior Court granted custody to the daddy after Elena took Naveen the younger without permission. She has alleged that Naveen the senior and his girlfriend Barbara Hershey (yes, that Barbara Hershey) of trying to poison their son and that Hershey practices witchcraft. Naveen’s attorney, Laura Wasser, responded by asking that Eustache get a psychiatric evaluation.

January 2009, Patricia Arquette, Thomas Jane

Patricia Arquette retained Wasser in her divorce against Thomas Jane of Hung. The pair reconciled briefly, but finalized their divorce in 2011.

February 2009, Ashlee Simpson, Pete Wentz

Interestingly, when Ashlee filed for divorce, she went with Wasser, the woman who her sister Jessica found herself opposite when divorcing husband Nick Lachey.

April 2009, Robyn Moore, Mel Gibson

After photos came out showing Gibson embracing future Oksana Grigorieva, Robyn retained Wasser, while Gibson sought Robert Kaufman for representation. As the couple did not have a prenup, what resulted was a $400 million settlement for Robyn, considered the biggest in Hollywood history.

May 2009, Kelis, Nas

Kelis filed against Nas when she was seven months pregnant with their first son.

November 2009, Shaunie O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq filed for divorce in 2007 using a different lawyer (Ira Elegant), but ended up reconciling with Shaunie. When Shaunie filed in 2009, things started to heat up, and by the time their custody battle was being worked out in 2013, Wasser had been retained by Shaq.

November 2009, Jimmy Iovine, Vicki Iovine

The head of Interscope Records’ filing for divorce was mostly notable because his wife went on to write The Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, and because of this TMZ article:

TMZ has learned Iovine’s marriage is officially over today. The terms are confidential, but the deal was sealed in L.A. County Superior Court — where disso-queen Laura Wasser showed up with her two kids and an eight month belly full of unborn kid … and looking good we might add.

March 2010, Peter Getty, Jacqueline Getty

Peter Getty’s divorce from Jacqueline Getty was complicated, to put it lightly. Peter is the heir to the Getty oil fortune of over $2 billion, and when Jacqui found out he’d been unfaithful, she decided to divorce him. (Jacqui had previously been wed to Gian-Carlo Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola’s son, but he’d died in a boating accident, leaving her pregnant with their daughter.)

According to Jacqui, in addition to his infidelity, Peter struggled with addiction issues, and became violent. In her filing, she asked for half a million dollars a month to continue living in the manner she was accustomed to, as well as additional money to hire lawyers to compete with her husband’s decision to retain Wasser. A judge ultimately ruled that Jacqui would be granted $83,000 a month.

August 2010, Slash, Perla Ferrar

The couple had no prenup, and their divorce was described as “extremely acrimonious.”

September 2010, Ann Lopez, George Lopez

Ann hired Wasser after The National Enquirer story broke that George was cheating on her, though their split was reported in the mainstream press as “amicable.”

October 2010, Christina Aguilera, Jordan Bratman

While TMZ reported that their marriage broke up because Christina cheated on Jordan, she was the one who filed, asking that he not receive spousal support.

November 2010, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Noah Baumbach

Seven months after giving birth, Leigh filed against Baumbach.

December 2010, Ryan Reynolds, Scarlett Johannson

In this drama-free separation, Reynolds retained Wasser, though he and Johannson filed at the same time.

December 2011, Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant

Though Vanessa filed using Wasser, she ultimately called the divorce off two years later.

May 2011, Maria Shriver, Arnold Schwarzenegger

Shriver famously retained Wasser after she found out that Schwarzenegger had fathered a child with the couple’s housekeeper; Schwarzenegger ended up being represented by Robert Kaufman.

November 2011, Kim Kardashian, Kris Humphries

Wasser’s famed surged again in 2011, when she represented Kim Kardashian in her lengthy attempt to get divorced from Kris Humphries after only 72 days. Humphries called their marriage a fraud, and sought an annulment; because of his tactics, Wasser said, “Miss Kardashian is now handcuffed to Mr. Humphries.”

April 2012, Heidi Klum, Seal

Wasser, we can presume, helped the pair (who were famous for renewing their vows yearly) broker a postnup.

July 2012, Laura Dern, Ben Harper

Harper had originally filed in 2010, but then they tried reconciling for a period before Dern filed for divorce herself in 2012.

August 2012 Stevie Wonder, Kai Millard Morris

A decade after Wasser first represented him, Stevie filed for divorce from his second wife. A fun detail: “Wonder filed the divorce papers using his legal name, Stevland Morris, and signed with two fingerprints.”

August 2012, Kenny G, Balynda Helene Benson-Gorelick

Seven months after his wife had filed for legal separation, Kenny G filed for divorce.

December 2012, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore

After rumors that he had cheated on her escalated, Moore announced that she and Kutcher had separated in 2011, saying “As a woman, a mother and a wife there are certain values and vows that I hold sacred, and it is in this spirit that I have chosen to move forward with my life.” Their divorce wasn’t made official until a year later, when Kutcher filed, and it was finalized a year after that, with Kutcher (repped by Wasser) reportedly giving Demi a lump sum.

December 2013, Khloe Kardashian, Lamar Odom

After her sister ultimately found success with Wasser, Khloe Kardashian would use the attorney’s services as well, filing for divorce from husband Lamar Odom, though the case would not be finalized for years, and their relationship remains… confusing.

May 2014, Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling

Shelly retained Wasser when she announced she’d be divorcing Donald, following the endless drama surrounding his relationship with V. Stiviano; a year later, Donald was the one who ultimately filed.

June 2014, Melanie Griffith, Antonio Banderas

Griffith filed, asking for child support from Antonio, though their daughter Stella would turn 18 in just a few months.

July 2014, Jane Lynch, Lara Embry

Though Lynch retained Wasser, it ended up being a pretty amicable divorce after a quick marriage.

January 2015, Nick Cannon, Mariah Carey

Mariah has used Wasser as her lawyer for a number of years, using her in 2011 to fight child abuse claims. So when husband Nick Cannon filed for divorce, she was already all set up.

February 2015, Hilary Duff, Mike Comrie

A year after they separated, Duff filed, asking for primary child custody, though Comrie responded by asking for joint custody.

June 2015, Jennifer Garner, Ben Affleck

The Jennifer Garner/Ben Affleck divorce announcement gave the world an intimate familiarity with their nanny, with whom Ben reportedly had an inappropriate relationship, and came after years of rumors about his gambling and cheating. Jen brought her A-game and hired Wasser.

July 2015, Kourtney Kardashian, Scott Disick

Though its unclear if Kourtney Kardashian has officially worked out her custody situation with Scott Disick, she has (like her sisters before her) reportedly retained Wasser’s services post their separation, which neither she nor Disick have officially confirmed.

August 2015, Gwen Stefani, Gavin Rossdale

The two filed at the same time, but only Gwen got Wasser in her corner.

August 2015, Megan Fox, Brian Austin Green

When filing, Megan specified that they’d been separated since June, but rumors about issues in their marriage had followed the couple for years.

Outside of this list of over 40 former celebrity couples, Wasser has reportedly repped all five members of Korn, members of Tool, Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, The Offspring’s Dexter Holland, the creator of CSI, and numerous other members of the Hollywood elite, many of whom have names that are slightly less well-known, or whose names are very well-known but whose custody cases were sealed. As of now, Fox and Green are the last celebrity couple to make their mark on the dreaded summer of 2015, but Wasser, who’s been in the news for over 15 years, is just hitting her stride.

Contact the author at [email protected].

Images via Getty

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