10 Years After Brittany Murphy And Her Husband Died, The Cause Of Their Deaths Remains Baffling

Early in the morning of December 20, 2009, Brittany Murphy tells mom Sharon that she’s not feeling too hot. Then, just half an hour later, the 32-year-old actress collapses, and her husband, Simon Monjack, tries desperately to bring her back to consciousness. Sharon also dials 911 and begs for assistance from the emergency services – hoping against hope that they can save her daughter. But, ultimately, nothing helps, and tragically Murphy passes away in a Los Angeles hospital later that day.

Following Murphy’s untimely passing, though, wild rumors began to swirl about what exactly happened to cause her death. Even now, the events that led to the end of Murphy’s life aren’t completely clear. And when another heartbreaking loss hit the Murphy family mere months later, the plot only thickened.

In fact, the mystery surrounding Murphy’s death arguably increased after her husband passed away in May 2010. Yes, Monjack died not long after his late wife – and in very strange circumstances. Perhaps most inexplicably of all, the screenwriter had apparently succumbed to some of the same ailments that had afflicted Murphy herself.

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But well before Hollywood mourned the loss of one of its brightest young talents, Murphy had been an aspiring actress. The future star had been brought up by Sharon in New Jersey after her parents had split, and when she set her heart on Hollywood, her mom was seemingly happy to pack up her life in pursuit of that dream. Murphy later credited Sharon’s faith in her daughter as being a big part of her subsequent achievements.

Murphy paid her mom back for her devotion, too, by sharing a home with Sharon in Los Angeles, California after she had made it big. And the star was full of compliments for her parent, describing Sharon as both “the greatest in the whole wide world” and “a pillar of strength.”

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Thanks in part to that support, then, Murphy shot to fame with her first big role in cult favorite Clueless. And her career only went from strength to strength from there after parts in Girl, Interrupted and Drop Dead Gorgeous – both of which proved the actress had range as well as comedy chops. Appearances in Don’t Say a Word, 8 Mile and Just Married also followed.

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Naturally, then, the rising star earned her fair share of attention in Hollywood. None other than Roger Ebert was among her cheerleaders, with the veteran critic once remarking that Murphy’s comical turn at an awards show had left him “dumbfounded by her brilliance.” But the actress didn’t restrict herself to movies. In 2006, you see, she also lent her vocals to a hit collaboration with dance music DJ Paul Oakenfold.

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And fame also brought Murphy the attention of some of Hollywood’s most sought-after men – including her fellow Just Married actor Ashton Kutcher. The star even got engaged on two occasions – firstly to talent guru Jeff Kwatinetz and after that to Joe Macaluso, who’d worked on her film Little Black Book. But gossip about Murphy did not focus solely on her love life.

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Worryingly, in the 2000s, Murphy shed a lot of weight – and there was plenty of talk about why. During a press event for the movie Sin City, the actress even had to deny that she was suffering from an eating disorder. Murphy explained, “I’m the same size I was in Clueless; it’s just that the weight in your face changes as you grow and get older.” She added, “This is my body, I’m proud of it, I’m healthy.”

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Murphy strongly rebutted the claims that she had a drug habit, too. When in 2005 a Jane magazine interviewer asked the star about cocaine, she replied, “No, just for the record, I have never tried it in my entire life. I’ve never even seen it, and I don’t leave the house too much – except to go to work.”

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On one occasion in 2006, however, Murphy did go out to a party – and it was there that she bumped into Monjack. Then, after that fateful meeting, the two embarked on a romance that ultimately led to the altar. This time around, Murphy did not bother to announce to the world that she had gotten engaged; instead, she simply married Monjack in her own home in April 2007. But just who was this mysterious character who had suddenly appeared on the scene?

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Well, reports had it that Monjack had been in some trouble with the law. Allegedly, he faced a couple of arrest warrants for fraud and stealing a credit card – although ultimately proceedings went no further. A U.K. investment company also reportedly pursued Monjack for more than $500,000, as did lawyers to whom he supposedly owed $6,000. On top of all that, the screenwriter had previously done time in jail for overstaying a visa.

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Further rumors chased Monjack, too. Had his lack of a current visa led to the quick wedding, for instance? And did he already have children? Well, Monjack refused to comment on any of those matters. In any case, it seemed that the love affair was real enough, as apparently he and Murphy were utterly smitten with each other.

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Then, less than three years into the marriage, tragedy struck. Early on December 20, 2009, Murphy had stepped out onto her balcony for some fresh air. Disturbingly, she seemed to be having trouble breathing, and Monjack therefore called for Sharon to come and help. During a later appearance on Larry King Live, Murphy’s husband claimed that Murphy had also told her mom she was dying.

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Murphy was still with Sharon, in fact, at about 7:30 a.m., when the actress said yet again that she wasn’t feeling well. Then the star collapsed, and while Monjack made an effort to bring her round with a cold shower, Sharon called an ambulance. But although Murphy was subsequently taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, nothing could be done for her. Heartbreakingly, she died just after 10:00 a.m.

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And while Murphy’s cause of death wasn’t immediately apparent, it soon became clear how many prescription medicines were lying around her home. Los Angeles County assistant chief coroner Ed Winter would go on to note that an investigative team took out nearly 90 bottles – all in names that Monjack had used – although Monjack himself would claim that these were just previously prescribed drugs.

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In any case, when the autopsy results had come in, it was revealed that Murphy had not been taking any illicit substances. And back in 2009, Winter told People magazine what he believed had killed the actress. He explained, “[Murphy] was really sick with pneumonia, very anemic, and she was taking medication – and all that combined killed her.” That wasn’t all that the assistant coroner had to say, though.

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You see, Winter also believed that Murphy’s life could have been saved if she hadn’t relied on self-medication. He added to People, “This death could’ve been preventable. Murphy was planning on seeing a doctor, but she unfortunately passed away before she did. This was a case of a person with pneumonia who was anemic and was taking medication when she should’ve been getting medical treatment.”

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Monjack insisted, however, that he hadn’t stopped Murphy from getting medical help and added that he’d just thought she’d been fighting the flu. He told People, “I had no idea she had pneumonia. I took very good care of my wife.”

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Naturally, Murphy’s devastated family also released a statement that expressed their feelings about her passing. The message read, “The sudden loss of our beloved Brittany is a terrible tragedy. She was our daughter, our wife, our love and a shining star. We ask you to respect our privacy at this time.” Monjack made headlines, too, for the way in which he comported himself after his wife’s death.

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For starters, the screenwriter actually tried to stop an autopsy being carried out on Murphy. Claiming that the idea of her body getting cut up was too much to cope with, Monjack pestered the coroner. Then, when news of this got out, rumors about his possible role in Murphy’s death spread across the internet like wildfire. And while Monjack ultimately refuted any such suggestions, others weren’t convinced.

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Among those suspicious of Monjack’s motives was George Hickenlooper, who had worked with Murphy’s widower on the movie Factory Girl. Hickenlooper blasted Monjack for being both a “con man and a bad guy” and blogged after Murphy’s passing, “I only hope that this creep wasn’t instrumental in her sad demise.”

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To others, though, it appeared that Monjack had genuinely been left distraught by Murphy’s death. That at least was the impression given during a subsequent interview with People, when the screenwriter lamented, “I had a life I never dreamed. I have seen the sun set on five continents. I’d trade it all for one more day with Brittany. I lost my life. She was my best friend, and she was a little girl who wanted her husband right there. What do I have left?” Nor was he alone in paying tribute to the Sin City actress.

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Former boyfriend Kutcher also honored Murphy by tweeting, “[Today] the world lost a little piece of sunshine. My deepest condolences go out [to] Brittany’s family, her husband, & her amazing mother Sharon. See you on the other side kid.” One of the co-stars of her breakthrough film got involved, too.

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Then, in February 2010, the coroner ruled that Murphy had died by accident. As originally believed, the causes of her demise had been pneumonia, anemia and intoxication by several drugs, with the anemia alone likely to have led to a “weakened state of health” that would have made Murphy prone to infection.

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The coroner’s report also suggested that the medications Murphy had taken – which included Vicodin, chlorpheniramine and L-methamphetamine – may have had “adverse physiological effects” on the actress given her frail state. By themselves, these findings didn’t necessarily point to anything untoward; chlorpheniramine is in several medications that can be bought without prescriptions, for example, while L-methamphetamine can be used to treat the effects of pneumonia. Yet even if the autopsy didn’t end up making waves, the same can’t be said of Murphy’s will.

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You see, the star bequested everything that she’d owned to her mother – with nothing in store for Monjack. The document in question even stated, “I am married to Simon Monjack who I have intentionally left out of this will.” Monjack claimed that he didn’t have a problem, however, and that he had asked Murphy to exclude him anyway.

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Still, there was speculation that Monjack had gotten his hands on the money regardless. And Murphy’s business manager Jeffrey Morgenroth only added fuel to that particular fire when he alleged that Monjack had emptied most of the actress’ accounts before his own death. In addition, it was claimed that, following the star’s passing, her mother had been sharing Monjack’s bed.

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And while Monjack and Sharon worked together to create a foundation in Murphy’s name, the screenwriter’s behavior again caused questions to be asked. For one, it appeared that he had attempted to charge admission for a fundraiser. Then it became clear that he had not submitted the right papers needed for the foundation to operate as a nonprofit.

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Before Monjack had managed to make the foundation a going concern, however, tragedy struck. On May 23, 2010, the widower passed away at the age of 40 – despite his publicist’s assertions that he had seemed to be in good health. And while Monjack had been previously experiencing a heart issue, his autopsy brought astonishing results.

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To begin with, you see, it was claimed that Monjack had also died of pneumonia and anemia – just like Murphy. In fact, it appeared that his heart problem hadn’t actually played a part in his death – nor had the levels of prescription medication in his blood. In the final report, though, the coroner clarified that Monjack had passed away solely from bronchopneumonia.

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Yet that still wasn’t the end of the speculation that surrounded Murphy and Monjack. Talk emerged, for example, of toxic mold being present in the couple’s home. Winter even claimed that he’d discussed mold as a possibility with Sharon, although she denied that conversation had ever happened. It also turned out that the house had undergone an inspection prior to Murphy and Monjack’s deaths.

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Then in December 2011 events took a bizarre turn. That month, Sharon embarked on legal action against her original lawyers, claiming that she’d been advised to settle with the home’s builders instead of pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit. The mom had been following up on alleged construction defects in the house – including a supposed mold infestation. But as the findings of an environmental review of the home never saw the light of day, no one could be sure whether the deaths had anything to do with damp at the property.

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Then, the following month, Angelo Bertolotti, Murphy’s father, took the coroner’s department to court, as he wanted the star’s remains to be tested for heavy metals or other potential poisons. And while Bertolotti ultimately lost the action, he did still order an independent test on some of Murphy’s hair. The results of this investigation were duly returned in 2013, and they may have raised eyebrows, too. You see, it was found that the hair contained trace amounts of heavy metals, including barium – which is sometimes a component of rat poison.

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Furthermore, the associated report from the test said, “If we were to eliminate the possibility of a simultaneous accidental heavy metals exposure to the sample donor, then the only logical explanation would be an exposure to these metals (toxins) administered by a third-party perpetrator with likely criminal intent.” This was enough to convince Bertolotti that his daughter had been murdered.

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But when CNN asked American Board of Forensic Toxicology president Dr. Bruce Goldberger what he thought about the matter, he was scathing. Indeed, Goldberger dismissed the report entirely and labeled the accusation of murder “baseless.” According to the forensic scientist, making such a determination from the amount of hair provided was impossible, while the test results themselves may have arisen as a result of hair dye – which Murphy had often used.

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The coroner’s office didn’t find the report persuasive, either – at least, not enough to further look into the case. Winter explained to Extra, “The only thing they found [in the test] was heavy metals present, but I guess either our folks or a doctor explained to them [that] it was due to Brittany coloring her hair… It was determined it was from color.”

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Nevertheless, forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht urged caution when it came to dismissing the test completely. He said to E!, “I would have checked to see if the private lab results were valid – and, if they could be corroborated and analyzed, whether there was exposure and where… the exposure [came] from.” In Wecht’s view, Murphy and Monjack’s relatively close deaths made this avenue worth checking out.

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And Bertolotti had no doubts about what had gone on; in his opinion, his ex-wife, Sharon, had murdered the couple. Yet Murphy’s dad proved unable to convince the county to dig Murphy back up so that she could undergo more tests, and he went to the grave himself with his suspicions in 2019. So, no official evidence seems to support any wrongdoing in Murphy and Monjack’s deaths – and here’s hoping that remains the case.

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Meanwhile, Alicia Silverstone, who famously appeared in seminal 1990s teen movie Clueless alongside Murphy, also had some poignant words to say about her co-star following her death. In 2009 the actress told People, “I’m so saddened to hear this news. I loved working with Brittany. She was so talented, so warm and so sweet. I always felt connected to her as we shared a very special experience in our lives together. I feel love in my heart for her and hope she is at peace.”

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But as for Silverstone, her life hasn’t been easy since her role in Clueless. In 2018, for instance, the actress endured what sounds like a devastating divorce. And this breakup apparently set her back a large chunk of her reported $20 million fortune, too. So, here’s a look at Silverstone’s career and the staggering settlement that will probably affect her bank balance for quite some time.

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Born in San Francisco, California, in 1976, Silverstone began her showbiz career at the age of six. And after appearing in various TV commercials, her first acting role came in a 1992 episode of The Wonder Years, where she played Kevin’s dream girl. Then, a year later, she moved to the big screen with the main role of a vengeful spurned teen in The Crush.

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Silverstone also picked up two MTV Movie Awards for her performance in this erotic thriller. And she soon became a regular face on MTV thanks to memorable appearances in the videos for Aerosmith’s “Crazy” and “Amazing.” These two promos then helped Silverstone to land the defining role of her career.

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You see, director Amy Heckerling, impressed by Silverstone’s star quality in the Aerosmith videos, gave her the leading part of Cher Horowitz in Clueless. The loose adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma then became a huge hit on its 1995 release, partly thanks to Silverstone’s turn as the sweet-natured high school student. She subsequently landed a contract with Columbia-TriStar worth up to $10 million.

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Yet Silverstone’s next major role came in 1997 as Batgirl in Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin. And unfortunately, this superhero flick, and Silverstone’s part in it, was largely considered a misfire. Silverstone even picked up a Worst Supporting Actress at the Razzie Awards for her performance. She also experienced disappointment that year when Excess Baggage, the first film released by her own production company, flopped at the box office.

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So, after starring alongside Brendan Fraser in Blast from the Past, Silverstone seemingly chose to pursue more interesting and less commercial roles. In 2000, for instance, she appeared as the Princess of France in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. She then appeared in indie comedy Global Heresy and took to the Broadway stage for the first time in The Graduate.

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In 2003, meanwhile, Silverstone returned to the small screen for a leading role as attorney-turned-matchmaker Kate Fox in Miss Match. And even though NBC canceled the dramedy after just one season, Silverstone still picked up a Golden Globe nod for her efforts. Then, a year later, she appeared alongside fellow 1990s teen idols Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar in Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.

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Silverstone continued to spice up her acting resume with supporting roles in Barbershop spinoff Beauty Shop and Stormbreaker. She also appeared in TV movie Candles on Bay Street and starred in David Mamet play Boston Marriage. Then, in 2009, the actress became a bestselling author for her vegan nutrition guide, The Kind Diet. She also launched an accompanying website named The Kind Life.

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In the years that followed, Silverstone kept mixing up stage performances with smaller indie productions. But she still made the occasional mainstream picture, including 2011 teen movie The Art of Getting By. And in 2012 she enjoyed Clueless reunions with director Amy Heckerling, in Vamps, and Jeremy Sisto, with a four-episode stint in Suburgatory.

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Silverstone later added to her filmography with roles in Angels in Stardust, Who Gets the Dog? and King Cobra. She also showed up in black comedies Catfight and The Killing of a Sacred Deer and played the mom in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul. Then, in 2018, she returned to television with a leading role in Paramount Network dramedy American Woman.

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Yet despite her extensive filmography, Silverstone told The Guardian in 2015 that she actually never intended to be a screen star. She said, “I never wanted to be in movies or TV. There’s no support or schooling on what [you do] when you suddenly found yourself famous as a young woman. It was just too much for me.”

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It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that Silverstone has also become renowned for her environmentalism and animal rights work. She’s appeared in commercials for PETA, for instance, and launched her own rescued pets sanctuary. She has, however, also come under fire for her views on nutrition and her support for the anti-vaccine movement.

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Silverstone nevertheless shares her passion for animal rights with Chris Jarecki. She first met the musician in 1997 outside a cinema. Jarecki would later go on to front S.T.U.N., a rock band that was briefly signed to Geffen Records. And the pair dated for seven years before he finally decided to pop the question.

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In 2005 Silverstone recalled the moment while chatting to People magazine. She said, “He was waiting on our old wicker love seat, ring in hand, with the most beautiful proposal any best friend could ever give.” The pair married at a Lake Tahoe ceremony that same year.

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And true to their beliefs, the pair staged a somewhat untraditional event. For one thing, the eco-friendly couple used recycled invitations, old bamboo chairs and abandoned barrels to create their own bar. Their officiant also blessed them with water that he’d personally collected from the lake. The whole thing then finished with the pair and their loved ones eating vegan burgers and singing Beatles tunes around a fire.

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And six years later, the pair became parents when Silverstone gave birth to son Bear Blu. In 2012, though, the actress once again courted controversy when she uploaded a video clip in which she gave her son food she’d first chewed herself. Yet despite concerns that she could have passed on viruses and bacteria to her little one, Silverstone later said she had no regrets about the practice.

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Her seemingly happy family life wasn’t set to last, however. After nearly two decades together, you see, Silverstone and Jarecki decided to separate in 2016. Yet the pair initially kept their split secret from the media. In fact, they only publicly confirmed that they had parted ways in a February 2018 statement.

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A representative for the pair told Page Six, “They still deeply love and respect each other and remain very close friends but have mutually decided to separate after being together for 20 years. They have a son together who they will continue to co-parent.” Shortly after this, Silverstone officially filed for divorce.

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Yet in a subsequent interview with Working Mother, Silverstone admitted that she was open to the idea of having another child with Jarecki in the future. She said, “I’ve always wanted another kid. But I also wanted to space them out because I love being with Bear. They’re too delicious to have another one come along.”

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Silverstone continued, “When Bear was three and a half, I started to feel like I was ready to have another baby. But it wasn’t the right time in my life, so I waited. I have always dreamed of having a little girl, but of course I want another little Bear too. I’m not in a relationship, but there are other ways to make babies.”

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Silverstone also discussed the separation in an interview with Redbook. In July 2018 the star told the magazine, “Obviously, it’s heartbreaking. You don’t ever think you’ll be apart when you get married. All I can really say is that we’ll co-parent Bear together, and this is completely a good thing for both of us.”

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Silverstone then revealed in the same interview that she’d already started to hit the dating scene. She said, “I find it very fascinating meeting interesting, intelligent, different people. I’m super excited about being available and open to whatever’s next. Of course, there’s tons about it that’s confusing. I call my girlfriends, and I’m like, ‘What does this mean?’”

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But in the Working Mother interview, Silverstone revealed that she hadn’t yet spoken to Bear Blu about her new dating life. She said, “He doesn’t have any idea that I’ve ever been on a date. I have talked to him about how one day mommy and daddy might want to find another person to be with. That was hard.”

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Silverstone continued, “We had a really deep conversation about it, where I was preparing him in case I did find a boyfriend. But I just wanted to check in on him to see how he was doing. I would say, ‘Mommy and daddy like to live separately.’”

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In the end, Silverstone and Jarecki finalized their divorce in November 2018. This was after the pair had hired a private judge to assist them with various issues that they’d had trouble settling themselves. And it was one particular aspect of the settlement that made headlines when it was revealed to the press.

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Entertainment Tonight in fact reported that official court documents stated that Silverstone had to pay $12,000 each month to her ex-husband. And she seemingly also has to dish out this costly spousal support on the first of the month until early 2024. It seems, though, that the agreement did come with some stipulations.

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And if this is true, Jarecki would certainly have to think twice about co-habiting with a new love for a long period of time. The documents supposedly state, after all, that if the rocker decides to share his living space with a “romantic partner” for more than five months in a 12-month period, he will immediately forfeit all of his financial support. And that’s not all.

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Jarecki could also reportedly lose his tidy monthly sum if he moves in with anyone unrelated. Supposedly, you see, another stipulation involves a housemate financially contributing to at least half of the housing costs for five months in a 12-month period. So if this occurs, Silverstone will apparently be well within her rights to stop the payments.

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Yet as well as settling the financial aspects of their divorce, the pair also managed to agree to a custody arrangement. It seems that Silverstone and Jarecki will both be responsible for bringing up son Bear Blu in equal measure. An exact schedule was even agreed at a later date.

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So the couple’s divorce was made official in December 2018. This was ten months after the pair had first revealed their split to the public and more than two and a half years after they had actually separated behind closed doors. Irreconcilable differences were cited as the official cause of separation.

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Of course, Silverstone isn’t the first celebrity to make very specific requirements in a divorce settlement. Following Katie Holmes’ split from Tom Cruise, for instance, Holmes reportedly demanded an “ironclad” clause to prevent her daughter, Suri, from becoming too involved with Scientology. It apparently even stated that her ex-husband mustn’t take the child to any of the organization’s meetings or churches.

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And Cruise also reportedly insisted on a watertight clause himself. This apparently stated that Holmes wasn’t allowed to discuss her marriage to the A-lister or publicly hit the dating scene for at least five years. And the former Dawson’s Creek actress supposedly bagged millions of dollars for both herself and her child after sticking to the clause.

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Chris Pratt and Anna Faris also agreed on a specific clause involving their children following their divorce. In fact, official court documents reportedly showed that they both insisted that neither party could live more than five miles away from the other until their son, Jack, has finished sixth grade. Each parent also apparently has to give at least a month’s warning if they want to travel abroad with their son.

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Pratt told Entertainment Weekly, “Divorce sucks. But at the end of the day, we’ve got a great kid who’s got two parents who love him very much. And we’re finding a way to navigate this while still remaining friends and still being kind to one another. It’s not ideal, but yeah, I think both of us are actually probably doing better.”

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And then there’s the case of Andrew and Lauren Silverman. The latter became a tabloid regular in 2013 when it was revealed that she was pregnant with Simon Cowell’s child. So in the Silvermans’ divorce settlement, Andrew apparently insisted that the music mogul must keep his distance from their own son, Adam, for two years.

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The divorce apparently also stated that Lauren would have had to fork out approximately $45,000 if she’d broken the rule. Adam further isn’t supposedly allowed to call anyone other than his biological parents mom and dad. In return, Andrew reportedly agreed not to slate Cowell or allow anyone in Adam’s company to make disparaging remarks about The X Factor judge.

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But none of that makes divorce any easier for Silverstone and Jarecki. In fact, Silverstone has seemingly spent much of her time since the split working. She appeared alongside screen legends Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton in the 2018 movie Book Club, for instance. The star will then join the likes of Riley Keough and Richard Armitage in 2019 horror film The Lodge.

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Silverstone will also star as a woman who tries to prevent the marriage between her younger brother and his French girlfriend in 2019’s The Pleasure Your Presence. The actress also executive produced this Amy Miller Gross-directed drama. She will then continue her prolific streak with the big-screen comedy Judy Small.

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In December 2018 Silverstone also posed nude for a PETA billboard advertisement placed in Times Square. The actress decided to go bare as a way of highlighting cruel practices in the wool industry. The ad actually remained in place when the famous ball dropped on New Year’s Eve.

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For his part, Jarecki hasn’t appeared on screen since he made a cameo alongside Silverstone in 2012’s Vamps. Instead, he now focuses his efforts on a radio show titled A Musical Journey with Christopher Jarecki. The GFTU show sees the star invite various guests to reflect upon five songs that have shaped their musical lives.

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