On behalf of The Law Offices of Mary Ann Beaty, PC posted in Divorce on Friday, April 10, 2015.

Recent headlines announced the largest divorce settlement to date. However, the date in question was more than 80 years ago.

The high-asset divorce was between Charlie Chaplin and his wife, Lita Grey. Their original 50-page divorce decree was recently found to be among documents gathering dust in an abandoned bank on the West Coast. Filed in 1927, the separation between the 35-year-old actor and the teenage Grey netted her $825,000, which at the time was the world’s largest settlement to be awarded in a divorce.

The allegations outlined in the papers explain why the award might have been so substantial. Grey describes how Chaplin, who had known her since she was only 8 years old, seduced her when she was 15 and he was in his mid-thirties. She became pregnant by Chaplin at age 16 and her mother threatened to go to the police unless he agreed to marry Grey. Chaplin initially demanded that she undergo an abortion, according to the documents.

Grey also details sexual demands Chaplin made which were in fact illegal at that time, describing them as “revolting, degrading and offensive.” He tried to pressure her into meeting his demands by claiming other movie stars of the time had done such things with him. (When he died in 1977, Chaplin claimed to have bedded over 2,000 women in his lifetime.)

Times are different, in many ways, today. However, it’s still all too common to see divorce issues where one spouse feels trapped in a marriage, perhaps made to feel shameful or inadequate by the other spouse. Maybe one spouse is a decade or more younger than the other, and financially dependent on him or her. There may be fears that leaving a powerful, influential spouse may negatively impact one’s own career prospects.

These are situations when a legal professional can stand up and fight back for a spouse who may see no way to fight back on his or her own. And an experienced family law professional will fight for everything to which one is entitled.

Source: New York Post, “Chaplin’s ‘degrading’ sex demands with teen wife,” Emily Smith, April 1, 2015