The Law Blog of Oklahoma

When Rock Stars Divorce: The Flaming Lips

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

In 2012, Flaming Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne and his common law wife, J. Michelle Martin-Coyne, separated after speculation that the musician began having an affair with a 20-something young woman he allegedly met at Kamp's in Oklahoma City. After approximately a year apart, in September 2013, Martin-Coyne filed for divorce on the grounds of "irreconcilable incompatibility." Since that time, the petitioner (Michelle) and the respondent (Wayne) have gone back and forth about a number of factors, including the date of their marriage, the intellectual property to which each is entitled, and the grounds for divorce. The divorce of Wayne Coyne and Michelle Martin-Coyne illustrates how even a divorce that doesn't involve children can be extremely complicated.

When she filed for divorce, Michelle Martin-Coyne said that the couple suffered irreconcilable incompatibility after 25 years together. She said that their common law marriage began on February 4, 1989, and that she is entitled to equitable division of real and intellectual property acquired during the marriage as well as temporary and permanent support alimony "in an amount to keep her living in the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed."

In his response, Wayne Coyne denied that the common law marriage began in 1989, saying that the two began living as husband in wife much later--in 2004. He also says that he does not have enough information about the real and intellectual property the two acquired during marriage, and that he denies the his wife is entitled to half of the assets. In his counter petition, Coyne argues that Martin-Coyne does not need permanent support alimony, but rather "a reasonable amount of temporary support and/or post-decree spousal support to assist her during an economic readjustment period."

Martin-Coyne then countered her husband's claims, reasserting that the couple became husband and wife in 1989. In her amended petition, she also listed additional grounds for divorce. Rather than the "irreconcilable incompatibility" claimed in the initial petition for divorce, Martin-Coyne's amended petition stated, "That due to the adulterous acts of the Respondent the parties have reached a state of total irreconcilable incompatibility and she is entitled to a divorce on the additional grounds of adultery and that she has a valid and sizable dissipation claim."

Wayne Coyne argued that the grounds of adultery should be stricken from the petition. He says that since Oklahoma is a no-fault divorce state, and that the initial petition only listed incompatibility, the issue of adultery is moot. He argues that Martin-Coyne only included it in an effort to embarrass and disparage him.

Coyne's take on the adultery claim is interesting in light of a bill proposed before the Oklahoma legislature this year. Representatives Mark McCullough and Josh Brecheen sponsored House Bill 1548, which would have removed incompatibility as grounds for divorce. The bill is dead, but critics say that had it passed, it would have forced finger-pointing and blame in divorces that could otherwise be somewhat amicable.

Of course, when property division in a divorce involves business assets and debts, as well as intellectual property and business goodwill concerns, things can become quite messy, regardless of the grounds upon which a petitioner seeks the divorce. Fighting over accumulated wealth, intellectual property, and royalties can be extremely complicated. Having an experienced divorce lawyer who is well-equipped at handling challenging property division situations is vital to walking away from the marriage with a financial agreement that serves your best interests.

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