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'Roots' Star Ben Vereen Divorcing Wife of 36 Years

Tony Award winner and "Roots" star Ben Vereen has filed for divorce from his wife of 36 years, TMZ reports.

Vereen got his start on Broadway playing lead roles in "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Pippin." However, he's probably best known for his role as Chicken George in the TV miniseries based on Alex Haley's "Roots."

Ben Vereen filed divorce papers in Los Angeles Superior Court, blaming the split on irreconcilable differences, according to TMZ. The actor and wife Nancy Bruner married back in 1976 after meeting on the set of a play. The couple has several children together. However, all of them are now adults, so child support won't be an issue in the divorce.

In his filing, Vereen insists that he shouldn't have to pay Bruner spousal support. Not all spouses are entitled to spousal support after a divorce. Instead, spousal support is meant to be "rehabilitative," meaning it should only be ordered when it's necessary for the spouse to receive training and become self-supporting. In addition, most support awards terminate when the recipient spouse remarries.

On the other hand, spousal support can be permanent in cases where the ex-spouse is too old to work or is disabled. If the ex-spouse already has a career or some means of supporting himself or herself, spousal support may not be necessary. That's probably the case here with Bruner.

While Bruner might not receive spousal support, she could get a piece of the couple's property. That's because California is a community property state, meaning a couple's marital property is generally split 50/50 upon divorce. Unless Vereen and Bruner signed a prenup, Bruner could be walking away with half of what Vereen has earned during the couple's marriage.

Had the couple divorced in Georgia, the results would probably be different. Georgia isn't a community property state. Instead, courts practice equitable distribution in divorce cases. In dividing marital property, judges will consider the amount each spouse contributed to the asset, how much each spouse will earn after the divorce, how long the marriage lasted, and any accusations of abuse or infidelity.

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