On the first Wednesday of each month, our founding partner, Rick Jones stops by The Danny Bonaduce & Sarah Morning Show to take questions from callers on all aspects of family law.
Normally Rick and Danny are the ones who take questions from callers, but we thought it would be fun to switch things up a bit.
So today we asked Danny Bonaduce for his unique perspective on some of our own family law questions. He has a lot of experience in this area.
A Little Background on Danny:
- Married Setsuko Hattori: 1985 – 1988
- Married Gretchen Hillmer: Met in 1990, married several weeks later. Had 2 children. Divorced 2008.
- Married Amy Railsback: 2010 – Couldn’t be happier!
Do You Think You Got A Fair Shake?
Mary Beth: “Given your experience in family law, I might call you a non-practicing divorce expert. And given that our firm focuses on the rights of men, I have to ask, do you think you were given fair shake [as a man]? Or did it ever feel like the proverbial deck was stacked against you?”
Danny: “I don’t know. I feel like my first marriage was the magic of convenience. We just got divorced, later on, she got a green card, and everybody was happy.
“My second marriage, you know it started under odd circumstances. After ten, 12, 15 years it seemed like the real deal. We got two kids, and things like that. And when it all fell apart, I hired a lawyer in Los Angeles.
“I don’t know if I feel I didn’t get a fair shake because I’m a guy. I don’t know if I feel I didn’t get a fair shake because I didn’t get appropriate instructions, or I didn’t get a fair shake because that’s just the way that cookie crumbles. But I will tell you, I’m not mad at anybody except my ex-wife and she actually didn’t do anything wrong. I do feel like I got a fair shake. I do.
“I hired competent representation, I just didn’t give them clear things for my goals. I said, just get it done. That was probably my fault.”
Mary Beth: “Do you think it had anything to do with who you are?”
Danny: ” I think that it would have. But see THAT’S the thing. You can get a judge who’s going to say, ‘Ooh, I love the Partridge Family;’ that judge is probably going to be about 85-years-old.
“Or, you could get a judge that says, ‘Didn’t I see you on a thing, Breaking Bonaduce? Oh, that’s right, you’re a horrible person. I’m ruling against you without hearing anything.’ You can say, sometimes being a recognizable celebrity, I’m high on the B-list. But [even] on the B-list, it can still work against you. When I was still adorable, some things worked on my behalf.”
Mary Beth: “So…pretty much before VH1...”
Pre-Nups and Post-Nups
Mary Beth: “Not too long ago on the air, you and Rick were talking about Justin Bieber, his relationship with Hailey Baldwin (Alec Baldwin’s niece), and their differences in income, which turned into a conversation about [prenuptial agreements]. I remember you saying that Rick drafted one for you.”
Danny: “Yep, uh, technically it was a postnup, I was already married.”
Mary Beth: “So it was for Amy, right?”
Mary Beth: “But you ended up not using it?”
Danny: “Remember about all the favors I told you I owe Rick Jones?”
Mary Beth: “Yes.”
Danny: “Well that’s like three of them right there. So you have a friend that has a particular skill, it would almost be weird to not call Rick Jones to give me guidance, or to tell me the right person to call. I call Rick Jones if I have problems with recipes. ‘No, more salt,’ whatever it is, Rick Jones usually knows the answers is what I’m trying to say.”
Mary Beth: “Actually that’s true, I go to him all the time for non-law stuff.”
Danny: “I saw him two times on the radio do this: [Danny attempts to sound like Rick] ‘You know it’s so weird, I’m pretty sure I don’t have an answer for you on that,’ and I’ve gone to move on–he’s my friend, it’s good radio, I’ll move on–and then he goes, ‘But let me say this…’ and then answers the question for the next six minutes, which was exactly the answer they were looking for and/or needed.
“This is not from a friend, a client, or anything else, it’s just my factual experience with Rick Jones because he almost always–and I say ‘almost’ just so I don’t sound crazy–but he almost always has the answer.
“If you’re going to call me, or you’re going to go to court, or if you’re just going to ponder something, and you get the luxury of asking Rick Jones, you’re probably going to get the right information.”
Mary Beth: “When you got the postnup, it wasn’t that you desperately wanted one for personal reasons?”
Danny: “No, I really desperately wanted it.”
Mary Beth: “Oh you did.”
Danny: “Yeah, I really did. I didn’t have a prenup [in my previous marriage], but I didn’t really have anything for the last wife, I got it all during the marriage. But I didn’t get one and that mistake cost me at least one of the $3,000,000 it cost me.
“I didn’t want to do it, Amy and I were having a lovely time. But I had said so many times, ‘You‘re a fool, if you’re the one with the money, get a prenup, that’s silly [not to get one].’ And if somebody says, “I think it ruins all the things about marriage,’ they’re lying in my opinion, they do care, they care a lot about the money.
“So I said, ‘You know, I’m doing okay and I’ve recovered somewhat from the divorce.’ I asked her, ‘Would you get a postnup? I’m not sleeping that well over this, I’m fresh from my last divorce.’ And she said, ‘Yeah.’
“By the time Rick was done writing it for me, the fact that she said. ‘Yeah, of course, I’ll sign one,’ made me think, ‘Oh well, don’t bother.’ And hopefully, that will be the case. Besides, she’s 25 years younger than I am, she’s going to get all the money eventually anyway. I’m going to die no matter what you’d heard.”
Mary Beth: “So you’re secretly an optimist masquerading as a pessimist?”
Danny: “Yeah, I think so. I think it was Benjamin Franklin that said, ‘Be a pessimist, then if things work out you’ll be pleasantly surprised.’ And that’s kinda what I go with. I learned all my history from Bewitched. Or an episode of Bewitched. And I was on it!”
The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised.George Will (not Ben Franklin)
On Child Support & Spousal Support
Rick: “Child support. It was set so many years ago, how many years out of the divorce are you?“
Danny: “This is at least a decade.”
Rick: “What has the history of child support been? Have [your exes] gone back to seek more at times?”
Danny: “No, and I’ll tell you this, you scared me on this one. I don’t care for the care and feeding of my 17-year-old son. I don’t like the way that’s going. I pay $3,000 in child support every month and have for ten or 12 years since he was a little boy.
“And I asked Rick about it, and he said, be really careful, she could go back to court and get more money. Not less. More. And I went, wow, I really thought, “Check with Rick before you do anything.” Because I didn’t think about that child support. [I thought] it was carved in stone, and it’s not necessarily.
“If you can prove that the person paying the child support–and there are two sides to this–is making way more money, they can go back to court and get more money.
“And on the other hand, on the flip side of that, I learned all this from Rick, that if the person receiving the money, because they didn’t make anything, now makes equal or more money, you can go to court and get some of that reimbursed to you.
“But the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t seem to me that child support is hard and fast. It seems like a rule at the time, but that circumstance can legally change.”
Rick: “You also had an alimony obligation that, if I remember correctly, has ended.”
Danny: “Yeah, it ended recently. My original commitment to being not married anymore was $1,000,000 and $16,000 per month for the next decade.”[Background laughter.]
Mary Beth: “Starting when?!”
Danny: “Ten, 15 years ago. Whenever we got a divorce. [He divorced in 2008.] It broke down a little bit, my eldest daughter, was say…14, when we got a divorce, and that means that four years later I didn’t pay $3,000 in child support, so now it’s down to $13,000 a month. Two years ago, the $10,000 a month alimony went away, and all that’s left is $3,000 child support for my son.”
Breakdown of support amounts at time of divorce:
- $10,000 per month alimony.
- $3,000 per month child support for daughter.
- $3,000 per month child support for son.
Danny: “We get calls all the time where somebody will say, you know I’m paying my child support and it’s killing me. It’s $800 a month. Now that guy’s working hard for that money and it is killing him, but what I hear, is, ‘I’m getting screwed here so bad!’ But it all has to do with how much you can afford to pay.
“The thing that Rick taught me, the judge is not out to get you. Rick said this with a straight face and since then has said it many times. So I now believe it. The judge is just a guy. He doesn’t hate you or love you. He has a job to do and he’s going to do it to the best of his ability.
“And I got to tell you, I never think of lawyers or the judge as people with just a job to do. They come in and do what’s right and then go home, and that was a refreshing and satisfying idea.
“The idea, although I hope not to be in court again. The idea that the judge doesn’t hate me just because I’m the defendant or the plaintiff, or what it is, that doesn’t get [talked about].
Rick: “When the maintenance went away, that must have been a huge deal. You and Amy were already married, you had your system down. No doubt there probably wasn’t an opportunity to sock money away, did you feel that it crimped your style, afterward?”
Danny: “I’m not a great saver of money. I hated sending that $10,000 a month so much, that when it was over, I demanded, or suggested strongly, that we continue to send that money. Just not to her, but to a bank account I don’t even know about, or can touch or have interest in. So what we did, it’s been over two years, and we have close to $250,000.”
Rick: “Well that’s pretty cool.”
Danny: “Yeah, it’s all amazing. You know I hope my son goes to the very best college. I’m happy to pay that part of it and everything, but until he does, the fact that my child support is ending February 14th makes me, I’m pretty pleased about that.”
Rick: “It ends February 14th?”
Danny: “Yeah, on Valentine’s Day. Hence one of his many, many names. My son’s name is Count Dante Jean-Michel Valentino Bonaduce.”
Mary Beth: “In real life?”
Danny: “My daughter, her name is Countess Isabella Michaela Bonaduce, and I thought this would be a private thing. My ex-wife is a crazed royal follower, follows their weddings, their birthdays when kids are born, and all that stuff.
“So, I said–and this was my actual plan–I said, ‘Hey, I have an idea. Let’s name any kids that we have ‘Doctor’ and ‘Judge’ as their first names, so when people say oh look this is Judge Bonaduce, this is Doctor Bonaduce. Save me a lot of money. She said, ‘That’s stupid, how about we give them titles.'”
Mary Beth: “So it sounds like you’ve written a lot of checks, but you’re not particularly happy about it. Did you ever take advantage of the memo line?”
Danny: “Well yeah. Why do you ask? I don’t even know why this would be bad.”
Mary Beth: “I would imagine you could have been very creative.”
Danny: “To your question, it’s like you were there, I thought it was funny back in the day to write ‘For Drugs’ or ‘For Sex’.”
Mary Beth: “Did that bite you?”
Danny: “Yeah, more than once but not hardcore. If you found out that after this interview that I paid a prostitute with a check, it wouldn’t hurt me like it would hurt someone else. It makes me a little, to have everyone know what bad things I have done, makes you almost Teflon. Nobody cares.”
Anything You’d like to add?
Rick: “Is there anything you’re dying to talk about or add to the end of this?”
Danny: “Not dying, but I thought of it just this moment, ‘Goldberg Jones -Divorce For Men.’ If that had been around when I was getting a divorce–and I wouldn’t have even thought I needed it before–if I had ever heard, ‘call this phone number: Goldberg Jones – Divorce For Men,’ I’d have called that in a minute.
“As I grew up in Hollywood and people first started getting divorces–like, you didn’t get a divorce on San Feliciano Drive. In 1972, Mrs. Burmaster got a divorce, and my mom–she told me this not too long ago–we stopped speaking to her. ‘You got a divorce? You can’t do that.’ “
[Ed. Note: We don’t know who Mrs. Burmaster is either.]
Danny: “It’s been my observation that men don’t do well. Some of it’s their own fault. I don’t know if we’re lazy, or if we just assume they’re going to be beaten down so why not take our beating like a man, but if there had been a Goldberg Jones – Divorce For Men in 2001, I’d have called it and truly believe I would have fared better.“
Danny: “That’s how it’s done!”
Rick: “Mic drop.”
[We swear that we had no idea he was going to say that, but goodness were we stoked when he did!]