Family lawyers in Pasadena often wonder if divorce is actually contagious. So often we see couples that know each other going through divorce or separation at the exact same time. It certainly seems like it could be contagious when you consider the recent breakup of musician Ben Harper and actress Laura Dern. The day after Dern was served divorce papers, two of the couple's closest friends, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, announced they were separating. The foursome often was photographed together, and Harper and Arquette co-own a clothing company. Dern and Harper's breakup comes as a surprise to Hollywood insiders, who long have reported on the couple's seemingly happy union.
Indeed, everything appeared to be status quo for Harper and Dern, who were often spotted in public snuggling. The couple was seen last month holding hands at the wedding of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder in Honolulu. Guests of the wedding say Dern and Harper, who brought their children to the event, looked extremely happy. Yet Harper says the couple has been separated for more than nine months.
In divorce papers filed last Friday, Harper lists the separation date as January 1, 2010. Citing irreconcilable differences, Harper is seeking joint custody of their two children and is asking the court not to award Dern with spousal support. He has agreed to pay half of his allegedly-estranged wife's attorney and legal fees. TMZ.com has reported Dern was shocked to receive the divorce papers on Saturday, which were signed for by her family housekeeper.
This is the second divorce for Harper, who has two children from a previous marriage. This is Dern's first divorce, despite high-profile romances with actors Kyle MacLachlan, Billy Bob Thorton, Nicolas Cage and Jeff Goldblum. Dern and Harper were married on December 23, 2005, after dating for nearly five years. The couple has two children, 9-year-old son Ellery and 5-year-old daughter Jaya.