Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, celebrate his victory in the California gubernatorial recall election in Los Angeles. Schwarzenegger has acknowledged that he fathered a child with a member of his household staff, a revelation that apparently prompted wife Maria Shriver to leave the couple's home before they announced their separation last week. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
By ANTHONY McCARTNEY and JOHN ROGERS
LOS ANGELES — Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger delayed his Hollywood comeback Thursday as he braced for what could be a costly divorce prompted by revelations that he had an affair and child with a housekeeper who worked for his family for 20 years.
The former “Terminator” star told his talent agency to postpone all his movie projects that are currently under way or being negotiated until further notice, a statement from Schwarzenegger’s office said.
“Gov. Schwarzenegger is focusing on personal matters and is not willing to commit to any production schedules or timelines,” the statement said.
Instead of another film, the actor could be starring in a big-money divorce case that will stand out even in a city that has seen its share of made-for-the-tabloids matrimonial splits.
His wife, Maria Shriver, the Kennedy heiress and former network TV anchor, stands to cash in big-time financially, according to prominent divorce attorneys.
Although California is a no-fault divorce state, meaning her husband’s acknowledged philandering technically can’t be used against him in court, the reality, attorneys say, is that it will be.
“Every judge would know about what happened, and I think would hold it against him,” said attorney Robert Nachshin, who has represented the ex-wives of a who’s who of entertainers that includes Will Smith, Rod Stewart and John Ritter. “Judges are human beings, and Maria will definitely be the sympathetic spouse.”
Based on his experience, Nachshin said, Shriver should expect to receive at least $100,000 a month in spousal support and, with three children under the age of 18, probably another $40,000 or more a month in child support.
Then there’s the division of the couple’s property, including the Brentwood mansion that Shriver and her children moved from earlier this year.
Nachshin said that could be affected by a prenuptial agreement, if the couple signed one when they were married in 1985. Many such agreements call for people to keep what would otherwise be joint assets separate after marriage.
Shriver won the sympathy vote when Schwarzenegger revealed this week he had fathered a now 13-year-old son with the housekeeper and didn’t tell his wife about the boy until earlier this year.
“It seems to me that he has gratuitously embarrassed her. This should greatly enhance settlement negotiations,” said Atlanta attorney John Mayoue, who has represented Chris Rock in a paternity suit, baseball star David Justice in his split with actress Halle Berry, and other celebrities.
Still, the most surprising thing about the case, the attorneys said, is the public found out.
“In my experience what Arnold did is not unusual,” said Nachshin, who has represented clients who hid the existence of children from their wives and others.
The boy’s mother, who has been identified as Mildred Patricia Baena of Bakersfield by The New York Times and other media, has vanished since her name became public Wednesday. The Associated Press has not independently verified that she is the mother of Schwarzenegger’s child.
Schwarzenegger’s office has declined to discuss whether Baena is the mother of the boy.
Schwarzenegger may be off the hook when it comes to paying the mother or even the boy himself any more than he already has. On her son’s birth certificate, she listed her ex-husband as the boy’s father and there’s no evidence that has ever been contested.
The time limit for her ex-husband to challenge paternity has long since passed, so it could never be legally established that Schwarzenegger was the father, said Michael McCormick, executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers & Children.
McCormick previously assisted a man who tried unsuccessfully to get the courts to halt his child support payments to his ex-wife after DNA tests showed the woman’s daughter actually was fathered by comedian Sam Kinison.
Neither Schwarzenegger nor Shriver indicated whether they planned to divorce when they announced their separation a week before word surfaced about the bodybuilder-actor-politician’s out-of-wedlock child.
However, People magazine reported Wednesday that Shriver has retained prominent Los Angeles divorce attorney Laura Wasser.
Wasser did not return phone calls from the AP, and Shriver’s spokesman declined to comment on the report.
Wasser has represented Christina Aguilera, Mel Gibson’s estranged wife, Robyn, and brokered the child-custody agreement Britney Spears reached with her ex-husband Kevin Federline.
Her specialty is keeping details of celebrity splits secret, and Nachshin said that’s what Schwarzenegger should strive to achieve. He suggested that if the former governor is smart, he would seek to have divorce proceedings handled privately by a retired family law judge, keep his mouth shut in public and tell the truth in court.
“Because courts go crazy if people lie,” he said.
Celebrity divorces have become a specialty of retired judges because they can be conducted in private, although the final resolution must, like any other divorce, be made public.
In the past, celebrities and the wealthy have gone to great lengths to keep the details of their divorces private, with mixed results.
Billionaire supermarket mogul Ron Burkle tried unsuccessfully to keep secret 1,200 pages of his divorce transcript, including allegations that he told his daughter he had videotapes of her mother having sex with a boyfriend.
In allowing the documents to be unsealed, the California Supreme Court struck down a law that would have kept them from the public. Ironically, the law was signed by Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger had been scheduled to begin filming the drama “Cry Macho” this summer and was in negotiations to reprise his popular “Terminator” roles.