Celebrities are known for excess and exaggeration, and unfortunately for them their divorces are often extreme as well. The common divorce may be just as nasty, of course, but with intense media scrutiny, we are privy to the dirty details of many stars' marital troubles. And those details just seem to keep getting dirtier.
Accusations of infidelity have always been rather common in celebrity divorces, but now we also regularly hear allegations of physical, emotional, alcohol and drug abuse—and the kind of name-calling that rivals anything heard on the playground.
Countless star breakups can be considered ugly, but here are five of the nastiest celebrity divorces:
Denise Richards & Charlie Sheen
The breakup of this marriage was without a doubt one of the ugliest Hollywood has ever seen. After three years of marital bliss, Richards filed a petition for divorce in 2005 alleging that Sheen was unfaithful, abusive and addicted to both pornography and prostitutes. Soon thereafter, we heard a voicemail message left by Sheen telling his estranged wife to "rot in ******* hell" and read emails that called her a "sad, jobless ****."
Although their divorce was final in 2006, in July 2008, Richards asked the court for an emergency court order to stop Sheen from seeing their children, alleging that a serious issue in Sheen's home could adversely affect them. Looks like the nastiness in this one isn't ending any time soon.
Heather Mills & Paul McCartney
With Heather Mills, Sir Paul McCartney seemed to have found happiness after the death of his wife of 30 years, but after four years together, the couple headed to divorce court in 2006.
Mills went on the attack calling McCartney abusive and violent, as well as a drug abuser. But the British press came to Sir Paul's defense and labeled Mills a high-class prostitute and a gold-digger. Indeed, even attorneys in the case weren't immune from the nastiness of this one—during trial, Mills poured a carafe of water over one of McCartney's divorce lawyers.
When the divorce became final in 2008, Mills ended up with $48.7 million, which sounds like a lot to most of us, but is considerably less than the chunk of McCartney's $800 million assets she had been asking for, and many think this is because of her attempt to drag Sir Paul's good name through the marital mud.
Christie Brinkley & Peter Cook
After nearly 10 years of marriage, Brinkley filed for divorce soon after she learned of Cook's affair with his then-18-year-old assistant Diana Bianchi. This breakup started ugly anyway, but it got even nastier when Brinkley pushed for public coverage of the trial.
During proceedings, with accusations that Brinkley ransacked Cook's office, copied his hard drive and scratched his face out of family photos, Cook's attorneys tried to portray Brinkley as a bitter, angry woman. Brinkley's response?
"I think a certain amount of anger is perfectly normal. After all, I supported this man for almost ten years. He never paid for a single thing. He lived a wonderful life. And all the while he was carrying on like this behind my back."
Brinkley had to pay Cook $2 million, but she did retain custody of their two children as well as ownership of all of her 18 properties.
Liza Minnelli & David Gest
This split got nasty even before divorce papers were filed. Less than two years into the marriage, Gest sued Minnelli for $10 million, alleging that his estranged wife had beaten him so badly during rages spurred by alcohol (beginning before the wedding) that he had suffered neurological damage and severe headaches and had to be hospitalized.
Minnelli countersued, accusing Gest of stealing at least $2 million when he produced several of her shows.
Over the next four years, more ugly allegations surfaced on both sides including Minnelli's assertion that Gest poisoned her and Gest's claim that Minnelli hid herpes simplex from him until after they were married. Finally in early 2007, the couple decided to call a truce and opt for a no-fault divorce.
Kim Basinger & Alec Baldwin
After seven years of marriage, Basinger and Baldwin separated in 2000 and were divorced two years later. Basinger alleged emotional and physical abuse while Baldwin's brother Billy came to his defense, calling Basinger a "nutcase." All that was mild compared to the bitter custody battle over the couple's daughter, Ireland.
Both sides had bad moments during the fight. After the couple initially agreed to share custody, Basinger allegedly violated the conditions of Baldwin's visitation rights. But then things really flared up in 2007 when a tape of a message left by Baldwin for his then-11-year-old daughter was released to the media. On the message, he called his daughter a number of names when she missed a prearranged phone call with him.
Baldwin alleged that Basinger leaked the tape, which she denied, and Baldwin temporarily lost visitation rights. And just when we thought the bad blood was over, in August 2008, Baldwin requested a new custody hearing.
How Do We Know All This?
Details of contested divorces are matters of public record, so all the private dirt is revealed to prying eyes. For many people, this is even more reason to split amicably and come to an agreement on child custody and asset distribution before they file for divorce. Filing an uncontested divorce keeps the details of a break-up private.
Another Nasty Divorce on the Horizon?
These are five of the nastiest celebrity divorces right now, but keep your eye on the news because professional baseball player Alex Rodriguez's wife Cynthia recently filed for divorce alleging extramarital affairs and emotional abandonment.
This one could get nasty fast as tabloids have zeroed in on several strippers who claim to have been with Rodriguez during his marriage. And, in a true celebrity twist, Rodriguez allegedly told a friend that the Material Girl herself, Madonna, is his soul mate. Perhaps not coincidentally, there have also been reports that Madonna's marriage to Guy Ritchie may be in danger.