Monty Python star John Cleese cuts his divorce settlement in half

Divorce in Santa Barbara, California
Swiss resident and Monty Python actor John Cleese is sleeping a bit sounder tonight. That is because a Santa Barbara court has agreed with him that alimony payments to his third wife, American born Alyce Faye Eichelberger were excessive given the recession; when the divorce was finalized in January, the judge literally cut the Monty’s payments in half!
Mr. Cleese was originally ordered to pay approximately $2.5 million per year in support to Alyce but he successfully argued that the payments were based on 2007 salary and that in 2008 he was cremed by the bad economy.
Cleese and Eichelberger were married for 15 years and were domiciled in Santa Barbara where they owned at least two mansions.  California, as we all know by now is a community property state. That means that upon divorce, the couple would normally split everything earned during the marriage 50/50 unless they had a prenup that said otherwise.
Cleese, 69, who now lives in Switzerland “for tax purposes” according to the and the has been dating a 27 year old by the name of Barbie Orr. He complained to the court that he would have to work until he was 70 years old to “feed the beast” referring to Alyce who is 64.
What does the Cleese decision mean for other affluent men who want to renegotiate their divorce settlements? It means that the recession is changing the rules of divorce settlements and everybody needs to look out. All parties need to factor this into the types of agreements they make with each other. Because it seems that a stipulation is no longer etched in stone the way it used to be.
Two other high net worth husbands, Steven Simkin in New York and Brian Myerson in UK have come to the spotlight for attempting to renegotiate their settlement agreement. And of course, there was a third case, the Stephen Walsh case where the court is seeking to set aside the settlement due to fraud. but the facts of that case are a bit different from the others. Because obviously we are not talking about any fraud in any of the others. The only similarity is that it is once again the “wife” who is going to get the short end of the stick when the agreement is torn open. 
But to the Simkin and Myerson case. In Simkin’s case he had invested in Madoff funds and lost it all, while the payoff he gave his wife a couple of years ago when they “stipped” to the divorce, left her with what he calls a “windfall.” In Myerson’s case he also agreed to a fixed sum with his wife, but he staggered the payments so that she received some of it at the time of the divorce, and then he had to pay the rest post-divorce, over the course of a few years. And then, of course, in Cleese’s case, the judgment wasn’t signed yet before he wanted to talk it over.
I think each of these cases is distinguishable and I don’t necessarily think the outcome should be the same for each scenario. Certainly, I have expressed my position in both the Simkin case and the Myerson case already. Check out the posts here and
But I do have one question: will the opposite scenario hold true? In other words, if we get into the troubling habit of voiding properly executed settlement agreements because one party got the short end of the stick, and we start chopping settlements and reducing them, what happens if the opposite scenario happens? In other words, a spouse agrees to “less” because of market conditions and lo and behold, there is a rally that nobody could have predicted. Can that spouse then go back and reopen and ask for more in the same way that these husbands are going in and asking to pay less?