Breast Implants and Divorce: Who Gets Custody of the Girls?

Jager Weatherby on 2 Dec 2014 at 8:00pm

GavelWhatever the motivation may be for a woman to get a breast augmentation, plastic surgeons can all agree on one major thing: The choice to undergo a procedure should always belong to the patient and the patient alone.

Unfortunately, some women have had to learn this lesson the hard way, much like Salt Lake City resident Mary Robinson.* The mother of two reveals that her decision to get breast implants was largely because of her husband, who’d been vocal about his dissatisfaction with her body. “I think a lot of [my breast augmentation] was for my husband at the time,” Mary admits. “[But now] I want them taken out.”

MORE: Here’s Why Women Are Removing Their Breast Implants

Her regret proved only to be the beginning of her struggles with her surgery. Not only did her implants do nothing to help her troubled marriage, but they ultimately became a topic of contention during her subsequent divorce.

“[My husband] saw [my breasts] as an asset, and he wanted the money for them in the divorce,” she explains. “He said, ‘We paid $5,000 for those. I want that much. I feel like they’re an asset to you.’ I said, ‘You know what? I’ll let you take the ATVs and I’ll take these.’ I think he very much felt ownership over them, like, ‘This is my perfect wife.’”

Divorce is difficult enough without someone requesting payment for something inside of your body — something they wanted you to get in the first place. If Mary’s husband hadn’t accepted her “trade,” however, she could feel safe in knowing that his demands would not have been acknowledged in court.

“Breast implants are not considered ‘assets’ subject to equitable distribution,” explains Jennifer Brandt, a Philadelphia-based Avvo attorney who specializes in divorce and family law. She cites the 2010 case of Isaacson v. Isaacson, in which the Supreme Court of North Dakota rejected a husband’s claims that his wife’s breast implants were marital property to be divided. “Mary should not have had to exchange her ATVs for her breasts. It’s unfortunate that she endured this surgery simply to try to save her marriage.” 

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While Brandt feels fairly certain that a court wouldn’t grant claim to money spent on cosmetic procedures, she does offer one exception: “If, for example, the other party obtained [a procedure] just prior to the divorce without their spouse's consent, utilizing marital money to do so, this would be an issue of unlawful dissipation of marital assets.”

Brandt notes that not many courts have had to rule on this issue, but that considering cosmetic procedures an asset could be a “slippery slope.” “Dental implants, pacemakers, hip or knee replacements, or even organ transplants could then be similarly considered assets of the party obtaining them during a divorce.”

* Name changed to protect privacy

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