Divorce is often accompanied by physical changes in the divorcing parties. Men often go gray from the stress, and almost everyone loses weight. But, some soon-to-be-divorced people take their divorce as an opportunity for physical self-improvement. According to an article published in the Huffington Post, 40% of women going through a divorce said they sought to improve their physical appearance. That includes having plastic surgery. In other words plastic surgery and divorce often go hand-in-hand.
But believe it or not, the decision to have plastic surgery before or during a divorce could become an issue when it comes to divorce proceedings and divorce outcomes.
As we all know, plastic surgery is supposed to be subtle. People aren’t really supposed to know for certain that you’d had plastic surgery. In other words, they might see you and just think you’ve lost weight, started working out or that you are smiling more. But oftentimes, plastic surgery is obvious. When that’s the case, a bitter, angry, or resentful soon-to-be-ex could use that plastic surgery as another reason to attack their spouse in court.
Plastic surgery and divorce
Specifically, it can be alleged that plastic surgery—such as breast implants are marital assets, should be divided (meaning the expense, obviously!) Let me explain.
A spouse alleging breast implants as marital assets is arguing that the money was spent not on self-improvement but, rather, so that a third party could enjoy the plastic surgery recipient’s new beauty. Therefore, the expense was not for the marriage and requires that half the plastic surgery expense should be reimbursed to the other spouse.
This is clearly a stretch. Such a claim presumes that the spouse is an object to physically enjoy and if the spouse isn’t the one doing the enjoying, then he (it’s almost always a “he”) should get his money back. Frankly, this says more about the spouse who didn’t get the plastic surgery.
In many cases across the U.S., when it comes to plastic surgery and divorce, spouses have tried to bring up plastic surgery expenses as marital assets and have found mixed success.
The Supreme Court of Hawaii held that if plastic surgery was not considered a reasonably necessary marital expense, the court should classify the expense as a non-marital asset, and assign that expense to the plastic surgery recipient’s awarded portion of the marital state. Okada v. Okada 137 P.3d 386 (Haw. 2006)
In sunny Hawaii, plastic surgery may be a non-marital expense, but in North Dakota, the state Supreme Court said, “don’t even think about bringing this issue into our courts and specifically highlighted the opinion of the very irate district court judge.
“[Breast implants are] the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen listed on a property and debt listing, next to the cat litter and cat box I had in my very first divorce, is going to be stricken. It’s just insulting that people would waste time putting that on a property and debt listing. Likewise item 96, the Lasix eye surgery is going to be stricken. . . .I can’t imagine people would actually waste time thinking that breast implants are marital assets and Lasix surgery was a marital asset. It just defies common sense. I don’t know how you would expect me to award breast implants. Do you want me to have them cut out and given to Mr. Isaacson, have the Lasix surgery given to Mr. Isaacson? It’s absolutely nonsense. Do not waste the Court’s time with stuff like this.” Isaacson v. Isaacson, 777 N.W.2d 886 (N.D. 2010) (No. 20090114).
In closing, when a divorcing spouse decides to bring up plastic surgery as it pertains to marital assets, it is usually because the spouse is bitter, angry and resentment, and is acting out in a way to try to achieve what in his or her mind is “justice.” The person might also view it as a way to achieve more control in the divorce, as the divorce process can sometimes feel like it’s not in your control.
Regardless, trying to make plastic surgery a marital asset is non-productive, and usually ends up costing the person making this argument more money in legal fees and a lot of wasted time and energy.
Russell Knight has been a divorce lawyer in Chicago, Illinois since 2006. Knight amicably resolves tough cases while remaining a strong advocate for his client’s interests.
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