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The Divorce Whisperer

Meet Laura Wasser, the lawyer on the front lines of every front-page split from Angelina to Kim

When movie stars and chart-toppers call it quits on their marriages, they know that their fortunes, families and reputations are on the line. They want the strongest representation possible, and for Angelina Jolie, Kim Kardashian, Heidi Klum, Britney Spears and Stevie Wonder, the attorney of choice has been Laura Wasser. The unmarried mother of two is a second-generation divorce lawyer and the author of the book It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way.

DuJour: Is there a busy period?
Laura Wasser: January. People go through the holidays and think, When I start the new year, I want to start fresh. Also at the end of the school year. When people’s kids go to camp or they take a vacation, they have more time to deal with personal issues.

DJ: It must be tough to be a divorce lawyer to this crowd. What qualities are most important?
LW: Patience. And you need to be compassionate but not too compassionate. I’ve seen attorneys burn out because they want to be best friends with all their clients. That’s unrealistic. I can do some hand-holding, but making you feel better after he put a picture of a new woman on his Facebook page, that’s not my job.

DJ: What’s the craziest thing a client has argued about in a divorce?
LW: I had one client with peacocks. Even though the couple didn’t treat them as pets—they were more like outdoor furniture—they fought vehemently over them. I couldn’t believe how much time I billed over those peacocks. But it turned out neither was allowed to have peacocks at the places they moved, so then they tried to give them to the other person!

DJ: What’s been your toughest case?
LW: I had a case where a couple of years after a child was born, the sperm donor wanted some custodial rights. In California law, a sperm donor has no rights or responsibility. But it was sad, because the father had already established a relationship with the kid. I represented the mother and we prevailed. I think it’s on appeal. The father is trying to figure out how to get the law changed. It was an interesting case for me because I might have personal feelings about it as a parent, but as an officer of the court, it’s my job to uphold the law, and the law is clear.

DJ: There’s been a trend of people throwing divorce parties. Do you ever get invited?
LW: Yes, I’ve been invited but I don’t go. [Laughs] I think it’s a little strange, but I don’t judge. In this profession, you can’t.

DJ: Do you keep in touch with your clients?
LW: Not usually. But I had one client around 15 years ago—he had a little girl, and his wife wanted full custody. They had a big fight, but he got 50/50 custody. Every year I get a Christmas card with a photo of his daughter. Once he wrote, “I want you to know that I wouldn’t be the parent I am and my daughter wouldn’t be the person she is if it weren’t for you having been there.” On days when I feel like, “Ugh, what am I doing? This is a terrible job. People are miserable,” that makes me think, I made a difference, and it feels good.