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Kobe Bryant divorce may cost NBA star half his fortune

Wealth and fame do not guarantee that a spouse's divorce settlement is favorable or fair. Sometimes the mistakes of the very rich can teach those with fewer resources valuable lessons about settling property division during a divorce.

Kobe Bryant was the National Basketball Association's highest paid player last year. His nearly $25 million salary was supplemented by an extended Lakers' contract worth more than $83 million. Forbes magazine estimated Bryant's pre-tax income, including his NBA salary and endorsements, to be $53 million, excluding agent fees.

When Bryant married his wife Vanessa 10 years ago, he was not the multi-million dollar athlete he is today. The couple reportedly never signed a prenuptial agreement before their 2001 marriage.

Vanessa Bryant recently initiated a divorce, citing "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the couple's breakup. The divorce is taking place in a community property state where 10 years is considered a long marriage, at least long enough to affect a divorce settlement.

The length of the marriage will be significant in court. A long-term union allows Vanessa Bryant the opportunity to seek and receive a post-divorce financial lifestyle much like the one she had during the marriage.

According to some estimates, Kobe Bryant's net worth hovers around $150 million. Legal observers say the combination of no prenuptial agreement and the lengthy Bryant marriage may mean Vanessa Bryant is entitled to $75 million, half of her husband's fortune.

Vanessa Bryant might have been placed in the position to accept much less during marital asset division had the couple signed a prenuptial agreement. Alimony payments also could have been capped or made conditional.

As it stands according to state laws, Vanessa Bryant is expected to be well-off for the rest of her life. Her divorce settlement could also be supplemented by extra spousal and child support.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, "Kobe Bryant divorce: 'Prenup could have saved half his fortune," Dec. 20, 2011

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