LOS ANGELES (CBS / AP) — At times, the marriage of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver looked like a fairy tale come true. But the public record is replete with problems that would strain any union, and recent glimpses into their lives suggested something amiss with a couple who often waxed publicly about their love for one another.
Since his term as California governor ended in early January, Schwarzenegger has hopscotched around the world, his wife nowhere in sight. Shriver posted three Twitter updates on April 26, their 25th wedding anniversary, without mentioning the milestone.
On Monday, they announced they were separating. “After a great deal of thought, reflection, discussion, and prayer, we came to this decision together,” they said in a brief statement that could signal a private breakup rather than a public court battle.
If Schwarzenegger, 63, appeared confident about the future since exiting politics, cutting movie deals and fashioning himself as a global spokesman for green energy, Shriver, 55, known for her confidence, seemed unsettled.
Shriver appears without a wedding ring in videos posted recently on YouTube and talks about stress in her life, the weight of expectations and the search for faith in a troubled world.
“It is so stressful to not know what you’re doing next,” she says grimly in one online video posted in March.
Schwarzenegger has a temper and a biting wit, and there were occasional spats behind the scenes in their Sacramento days, but the marriage unspooled with a minimum of public drama. Shriver moved quietly out of the couple’s gated estate a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, but they remain on speaking terms and had brunch with their children on Mother’s Day.
In their statement, they said they would live apart, “work on the future of our relationship” and continue to parent their four children—Katherine, 21, Christina, 19, Patrick, 17, and Christopher, 13. The only word from the family Tuesday came in a tweet from Patrick: “Small speed bump … luckily we own (H)ummers, we will cruise right over it. All will be okay.”
The announcement came just over 25 years after the couple wed on a spring day on Cape Cod. They seemed to have little in common aside from celebrity and a hunger for success: a Republican bodybuilder-actor with a history of womanizing, and a princess of the Kennedy clan who was a rising network newscaster.
Shriver, who lost two uncles to assassins’ bullets, never wanted her husband to enter politics, but supported him when he did. After Schwarzenegger won a second term In 2006, they kissed on stage at a celebration rally as a blizzard of balloons fell around them and their children.
They entered their marriage with separate fortunes and legacies, and the script for whether and how they end that union largely depends on decisions they’ve already made.
They said in their statement they have not filed formal court papers. It is unknown whether the pair have any agreement that would divide up their assets, which include their secluded estate in Los Angeles and a home near the coast in Malibu.
Economic disclosure forms filed when Schwarzenegger left as California governor in January show he has interests in at least eight entities worth $1 million or more. An exact tally of his wealth is impossible to calculate, although the forms show the “Terminator” star still retains rights to intellectual property from his days as a fitness guru and movie star.
Shriver’s holdings are more modest, but are listed in the disclosure as being worth more than $1 million. She is a member of the Kennedy family and is a beneficiary of some of its assets, and also owns rights and royalties from her work as an author, the filings show.
Shriver maintained her own identity when her husband entered politics, though she gave up her job at NBC. Their union was often tested in Sacramento, where the former action star contended with a rough seven years of legislative gridlock, a budget crisis and lingering questions about his fidelity.
Shriver stood by her husband during his 2003 gubernatorial campaign after the Los Angeles Times reported accusations that he had a history of groping women. Schwarzenegger later said he “behaved badly sometimes.”
In 2006, Schwarzenegger settled a libel lawsuit with a former late-night British TV personality who claimed she was groped by the Hollywood actor during a 2000 interview and later defamed by his aides during the 2003 campaign. In 2004, a judge dismissed a similar libel lawsuit filed against Schwarzenegger by Rhonda Miller, who accused him of groping her.
While Schwarzenegger was governor, Shriver and their children never moved to Sacramento, preferring their homes in the Los Angeles area. Schwarzenegger commuted by private jet between his family and the state capital.
Shriver often lamented the loss of her TV job. More recently, she has struggled with the death of her father, Peace Corps founder and former vice presidential candidate Sargent Shriver, in January.
A separation doesn’t always signal a divorce is imminent, said Charlotte Goldberg, a family law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
“Some people separate in order to try to work things out, to see if they can reconcile and come back together,” Goldberg said.
That was the case for talk show host Larry King and his wife, Shawn, who kicked off a bitter divorce struggle last year before deciding to stay together. Similarly, actors David Arquette and Courtney Cox announced last year they were separating, but have yet to file any formal paperwork to make their split official.
Steve Mindel, a Los Angeles family law attorney with more than 25 years of experience, said the fact that the pair issued a statement rather than filing court papers signals they may be working toward a deal that will keep most of the details of their breakup private. Several celebrities have recently taken that course, including singer Christina Aguilera and comedian George Lopez.
Both of their breakups were announced through publicists before any paperwork was filed, and neither case produced acidic court filings that have become the hallmark of other stars’ breakups.
Unless Schwarzenegger and Shriver have a property agreement, in California any assets they accrued throughout the marriage are split 50/50. Once they separate, their earnings become their own.
That may be significant for Schwarzenegger, who has said he hopes to revive the film career he placed on hold when he was elected governor in 2003. Shriver, a successful television journalist who is a member of Kennedy family, has said she doesn’t foresee a return to on-camera journalism.
As for their two youngest children, Goldberg said they’re old enough that they’ll likely have some say in any custody agreement.
She and Mindel said the couple seemed to be handling the announcement of their split with class.
“They’ve gone through a lot together,” Goldberg said.
“Sometimes marriages fail even after a long period of time.”
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