year in review

The Year Celebrity Divorces Got Real Messy

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

Thank God: The messy celebrity divorce is back. This year brought a variety of wild and scandalous separations, from the expected — come on, Ariana Grande and her real-estate agent husband were never going to last — to the truly surprising, like Joe Jonas’s scorched-earth split from Sophie Turner. There were so many celebrity divorces this year that stars started announcing splits that happened years ago, just to join the party (see: Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith; Meryl Streep and Don Gummer). While I enjoyed reading about all of them — Hugh Jackman and Deborra-lee Furness, Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth, even Kyle Richards and Mauricio Umansky — some splits brought just a little more excitement to People and TMZ than the others. Behold, the messiest celebrity divorces of 2023.

Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner

“Joe had access to a Ring cam that he said captured Sophie saying and/or doing something that made him realize the marriage was over.” – Source to TMZ, September 6, 2023

The award for the celebrity who most horrendously misjudged how the public would react to his divorce this year goes to Joe Jonas. Before he even filed the paperwork, the middle Jonas brother seemingly went straight to TMZ, leaking through “sources” that he was planning to divorce his wife of four years, Sophie Turner; that he believed she had all but abandoned the couple’s two young daughters to film a TV show in the U.K.; and that she had said and/or done something unforgivable on the couple’s Ring camera. (For the record, he denies leaking anything to the tabloids, and it’s still not clear what exactly he saw on that Ring camera or why he was using it to spy on his wife in the first place.) After Jonas’s tabloid salvo went over poorly with fans, he took to crying onstage during tour stops around the U.S. Meanwhile, Turner filed her own lawsuit accusing Jonas of holding her children hostage and refusing to send them back to England with her (the petition was literally filed under the child-abduction clauses of the Hague Convention). Then she made a point of getting papped in New York with Jonas’s most famous ex-girlfriend, Taylor Swift.

Mercifully, things have calmed down since then, with both parties agreeing to a custody arrangement that allows for the children to travel back and forth between the U.S. and the U.K. Turner even has a new boyfriend, and, fitting given her allegiance to her home country, he’s a member of the British nobility. Peregrine “Perry” John Dickinson Pearson is the heir to the Fourth Viscount Cowdray, and according to “Page Six,” Turner is “really happy” with him.

Ariana Grande and Dalton Gomez / Ethan Slater and Lilly Jay

“Not a girl’s girl.” – Slater’s wife to “Page Six,” July 27, 2023

When news broke that Ariana Grande filed for divorce from her husband of two years, L.A. real-estate agent Dalton Gomez, in July, I didn’t think there would be much gossip about the split. They got married in the pandemic and naturally broke up once the world opened up again and she went to London to film the Wicked movies — case closed. Except then, TMZ reported that she was dating her fellow cast member Ethan Slater, who just so happened to be married to someone else. Oops!

Sources connected to Grande and Slater, a musical-theater actor best known for starring in the SpongeBob SquarePants musical, attempted to assure the tabloids that they began their relationship after they left their respective spouses. But Slater’s estranged wife, Lilly Jay, strongly suggested otherwise, telling “Page Six” directly that Grande was “not a girl’s girl.” Damn. Love prevails, though: Grande and Slater are still dating after returning from London, and Grande even supported Slater on the opening night of his new Broadway musical, Spamalot.

Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied

“He knows he made an enormous mistake.” – Source to People, June 2, 2023

Technically, Natalie Portman and her French ballet-choreographer husband Benjamin Millepied have not filed for divorce from each other yet. But their marriage did seemingly implode this summer when a French tabloid broke the news that Millepied was having an affair with a 25-year-old French climate activist named Camille Étienne. People even confirmed the affair, with a source close to Portman claiming it was “short-lived” and that Millepied “knows he made an enormous mistake and he is doing all he can to get Natalie to forgive him and keep their family together.”

Portman has yet to comment on the scandal or her alleged separation. But perhaps she doesn’t have to: Instead, she’s recently been doing press for May December sans Millepied and her wedding ring.

Jeremy Allen White and Addison Timlin

“Being a single mom co-parent is not how I pictured it.” – Timlin on Instagram, May 14, 2023

The Bear star Jeremy Allen White’s split from his longtime partner Addison Timlin did not begin with a cheery joint statement assuring the public they were committed to co-parenting their two young daughters. Instead, Timlin filed for divorce in May and promptly posted about being a “single mom” on Instagram. (She later edited her caption to read “co-parent,” but the message was received.) Since then, White has made a point of making out with a string of models directly in front of the paparazzi. Just before the actor debuted his latest fling with Spanish pop star Rosalía, Us Weekly published details from court documents showing that he agreed to be tested for alcohol five times a week and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in order to maintain shared custody of his daughters. But perhaps in the wake of this new agreement, things are becoming more civil: White and Timlin have now been photographed greeting each other nicely at their kids’ soccer games in L.A.

Kevin Costner and Christine Baumgartner

“It is with great sadness that circumstances beyond his control have transpired which have resulted in Mr. Costner having to participate in a dissolution of marriage action.” – Costner’s rep to “Page Six,” May 1, 2023

Kevin Costner’s split from his wife of 18 years, Christine Baumgartner, was perhaps the most expensive and overlitigated divorce of the year. It started when Baumgartner filed for divorce in May: Rumors swirled that Costner had cheated, but he quickly came out swinging, saying he was “blindsided” by the filing. Costner hired famed divorce attorney Laura Wasser, and she filed a series of documents accusing Baumgartner of refusing to leave the couple’s $145 million home and asking for $250,000 a month in child support so she could spend some of it on plastic surgery. Baumgartner fired back by claiming in court docs that Costner told the couple’s three children about the divorce on a “ten-minute Zoom call” from Las Vegas.

As part of the lengthy court battle, nearly all of Costner’s financial information was leaked, including his take-home pay from last year ($19 million), the amount he spends to maintain his vacation house in Aspen (almost $2 million a year), and his annual gift budget (a generous $830,000). The unfriendly exes ultimately settled their divorce in September, with Costner paying Baumgartner more money than the prenup dictated but considerably less child support: $63,000 per month. According to People, Costner has now rebounded with Jewel.

Sophia Bush and Grant Hughes / Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris

“Preparing for playoffs while in my Beyoncé lemonade era.” – Krieger on Instagram, October 19, 2023

Former One Tree Hill star and self-proclaimed activist Sophia Bush is the gossip gift that keeps on giving. Back in August, she filed for divorce from her husband of just one year, Grant Hughes (not Hugh Grant), prompting a wave of speculation about what could have gone wrong in such a short time. In June 2022, the couple had a huge, social-justice-themed wedding in Tulsa, Oklahoma (featured in Vogue, of course), and even started a charitable organization together to which they encouraged their guests to donate (the Bush Hughes Foundation for Progress, LOL). Then Bush started hanging around some professional women’s soccer players, and lesbian TikTok pieced together some clues.

In October, former USWNT star Ashlyn Harris filed for divorce from her wife, fellow soccer star Ali Krieger. People quickly reported that Harris was in a “new” dating relationship with Bush. But fans suspected an affair, citing several photos of Harris and Bush together at various events over the summer. Krieger all but confirmed this assumption when she posted a photo of herself practicing for an upcoming game with the caption, “Preparing for playoffs while in my Beyoncé lemonade era.” Bush’s friend and former One Tree Hill co-star Hilarie Burton then piped up on Instagram, telling fans in comments that there was “no cheating” and defending Bush from some related claims (podcaster Erin Foster accused Bush of starting up a relationship with another One Tree Hill star, Chad Michael Murray, when she was still living with him). So far, neither Bush nor Harris has addressed the situation directly, which means this scandal could continue to play out in 2024. Cheers!

2023 Was the Year Celebrity Divorces Got Real Messy