Daryl Dragon (known as “Captain”) and Cathryn Antoinette “Toni” Tennille (known as “Tennille”), one of the most successful pop music duos of the 1970s, who recorded Grammy-winning songs about their love together, recently announced that they are divorcing after 39 years of marriage. Their divorce was filed in Arizona which, like California, is a community property state; as well as a no-fault state, thereby only requiring irreconcilable differences for a court to grant a divorce. On the surface, it appears that love, in fact, did not keep them together…or did it?
There is much speculation about this divorce. This is no doubt a “Grey Divorce”, which is defined as a divorce after the age of 50 and usually involves a long term marriage. Captain and Tennille are both in their 70s and were married for almost four decades.
Grey divorce cases, as I have written about on many occasions, are financially complex. Often these cases also involve managing the failing health of one or both spouses and the costs associated with health insurance and uncovered medical expenses. High medical expenses can bankrupt a couple. This is from where much of the speculation about this divorce emanates: Are Captain and Tennille divorcing because of Captain’s Parkinson-like health condition, which Tennille has apparently spoken openly about on their blog? Are they divorcing in an effort to protect Tennille’s assets from an impending financial apocalypse? Are they divorcing because they love each other and are doing what they need to do in order to preserve some portion of the wealth they built together while they still remain life partners?
News outlets speculate that the reason for the divorce is due to Captain’s health problems because the Arizona court docket indicates Tennille filed a “Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance.” However, upon further research, I found that this “Notice” is a mandatory form required in all Arizona divorces which advises the other party about their rights and responsibilities regarding any existing health care insurance policy. This “Notice” alone does not support a theory that Captain and Tennille are divorcing because of Captain’s health condition. Yet it is plausible that in Captain and Tennille’s case, as well as in many other cases, people may divorce in order to preserve assets due to the unexpected high heath care costs of one spouse. By divorcing, assets are thus divided, thereby potentially leaving only the ill spouse’s assets available to the medical creditors. After the divorce, the assets awarded to the healthy spouse are not available to the creditors thereby “preserving” a great portion of the community estate.
Once the divorce is finalized, there is nothing to prevent a couple from reuniting to care and love for each other. Divorce may not equate to hate. Rather, it may actually be about love and a strategy to protect the community estate. In this type of situation, as is possible with Captain and Tennille, it is often the love a married couple shares which motivates them to choose divorce in an effort to avoid the harsh impact of a broken heath care system. There is no law which requires divorcing people to stop loving each other. Maybe in the event of a tragic illness, love (and divorce) means that a couple, just like Captain and Tennille, will be there to share their lives forever; so maybe love will indeed keep them together.