(CN) – The Massachusetts woman behind “The Night Circus” must share future earnings from the best-selling novel with her ex-husband, a state appeals court ruled.
Before the Random House division Doubleday published her novel in 2011, Erin Joy Morganstern had been relying on her husband’s income as a chemical engineer while she pursued her writing career.
In addition to covering all of the couple’s living expenses, Peter Canisius Jr. paid off the rest of Morganstern’s student-loan debt from Smith College in Western Mass.
The couple’s marriage crumbled as Morganstern’s career took off, however.
By the time their divorce trial ended in 2013, Morganstern has earned more than $3 million in royalties from “The Night Circus,” and her book is being adapted into a film by Summit Entertainment.
Though the trial court in Suffolk County ruled that “The Night Circus” was marital property, it found the book’s future earnings “too speculative to consider” and granted Canisius a lump-sum payment of $570,000 for “his share of the royalty and book-related earnings [Morganstern] has received to date from the publication of [her] novel.”
On appeal, Canisius argued that Morganstern’s contractual rights to future earnings from the Doubleday and Summit contracts were not speculative and should have been included in the divorce judgment.
The Massachusetts Court of Appeals agreed and vacated the judgment on Aug. 6.
“While the amount of the royalty and other payments to be received by Erin in the future cannot be ascertained, the right to receive those royalties and other payments was contractually established at the time of the divorce,” Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza wrote for a three-person panel.
Though the court remanded this issue, it upheld the finding about the parties’ unequal contributions to the marital estate.
Morganstern attended 70 book signings and readings in the United States and Canada, plus six trips to the U.K. and Europe, to promote “The Night Circus,” according to the ruling.
“These activities took place primarily between mid-September and early November 2011 – after the parties had separated,” Rapoza wrote. “Erin continued to do publicity and marketing work in 2012 (after the release of the paperback edition of ‘The Night Circus’ and 2013.” (Parentheses in original.)
“The Night Circus” is the story of competing magicians Celia and Marco, who fall in love while working for a circus that appears in the night without warning.
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