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Pro athletes have fame, fortune and a high divorce risk

Sports stars have many things Wheaton residents may envy – world-class athletic skills, sizeable fortunes and public recognition. There are downsides attached to being a professional athlete that might make you glad you aren't one of them. The divorce rate among well-paid, famous sports pros is 20 to 30 percent higher than the U.S. national average of about 50 percent.

Basketball superstar Michael Jordan wasn't immune from a marital break-up. He married early in his career with the Chicago Bulls and fathered three children during the marriage. Jordan divorced his wife Juanita 17 years later, after reconciliation attempts failed.

Reports in Sports Illustrated and The New York Times pegged the pro athlete divorce rate at between 60 and 80 percent. The very things people envy about sports professionals apparently contribute to problems in their marital relationships. Athletes are faced with easily-attainable temptations and spend a lot of time on the road.

Plenty of Illinois spouses with jobs that require frequent travel maintain solid marriages. However, those spouses probably don't have the added stress of being swarmed by fans, who may repeatedly invite them to participate in marriage-damaging activities. Professional athletes also have more than sufficient funds to keep them from getting bored, which they sometimes spend on all the wrong kinds of fun.

Michael Jordan isn't the only well-known athlete who has faced a marital collapse or financial consequences. Golfer Tiger Woods marriage to Elin Nordegren ended with a $100 million divorce agreement. Fellow golfer Greg Norman was sued by his first wife for missing tens of thousands of dollars in alimony payments, three years and two remarriages after the couple's divorce.

Individuals with considerable wealth can safeguard property interests by entering into prenuptial agreements. The financial contracts spell out how assets are divided in the event of divorce. For many pro athletes, that event is far more likely than not.

Source: Forbes, "Divorce, Not Domestic Violence, Is Biggest Issue At Home For Professional Athletes" David Lariviere, Aug. 15, 2014

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