Melissa Etheridge And Tammy Lynn Michaels' Nasty Split (& How It Got Worse)

Melissa Etheridge and Tammy Lynn Michaels went from lovers to fighters in the blink of an eye. According to The Washington Post, Etheridge was fresh from a 10-year relationship with Julie Cypher, the mother of her two oldest children, when they met. The breakup had been brutal, and Etheridge channeled all her emotions into the 2001 album, "Skin." It was shortly after its completion that Michaels arrived on the scene. "I went back there in the world and look what I found!" Etheridge gushed.

The Daily Beast reports that she put a 3-carat ring on it in 2003 during a lavish, no-expense-spared ceremony at Dick Clark's mega-mansion. Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Al Gore were among the guests. The singer told the Post that her favorite memory of the day was of her and Michaels dancing to their wedding song, "My Girl."

"I'd never been so clearly and purely in love before — ever in my life. Not until I was 40 did I find something so clear and clean. For my children, for my partner, I wanted to get married," Etheridge told The Advocate. "Great and wonderful doesn't even begin to explain it. It was moving. It was more than I ever thought something like that would be." The couple became the poster child for gay marriage, and it was unfathomable even to imagine Melissa Etheridge and Tammy Lynn Michaels battling it out in a nasty split — let alone how it got worse.

After the love has gone

During their nine years together, Melissa Etheridge and Tammy Lynn Michaels presented as loving and supportive partners. In an interview with NBC News, the singer credited Michaels for helping her through the "hell" of chemo. Per E! News, Michaels gave birth to twins Johnnie Rose and Miller Steven in 2006, who Etheridge formally adopted. "I fell in love with someone who fell in love with me back," she told SF Gate. "That's a big thing. Not choosing that dark personality that's never happy, but choosing someone who has a light and energy."

However, the light was permanently extinguished after Michaels became one of Etheridge's ex-partners. In April 2010, the couple announced they were done, issuing a brief statement asking for "consideration and respect" as they dealt with the breakup (via Curve). Their relationship may have been done, but the nastiness of their brutal celeb breakup and bitter custody battle hadn't even begun.

Etheridge fired the first shot in July 2010, requesting their civil partnership be dissolved. Michaels claimed to be "blindsided" by the legal maneuver, alleging they'd agreed to wait until the fall. "Her broken promises / told to me by/headlines / i'm raising the kids / doing what i can / second set of yours," she wrote on her blog (via People). "Could you stop blind sighting [sic] me? Unless it's another art form you're working on / have a good concert."

The war rages on

Melissa Etheridge and Tammy Lynn Michaels' split definitely makes the list of ugly celeb breakups. They fought for years over custody, visitation, spousal and child support, properties, and legal fees as the lawsuits flew thick and fast. TMZ reported that Michaels demanded complete control of their kids and spousal support. Her attorney claimed Etheridge hadn't paid Michaels a dime, and she only had $4. "Melissa is paying all of Tammy's expenses, which totals tens of thousands of dollars per month," Etheridge's attorney insisted.

E! News reported they finally agreed on a settlement in 2012, but were soon back at it when Michaels insisted the $23,000 a month she received didn't cut it and demanded an increase. Then, the couple's ever-escalatingly spiteful barbs went public after their emails were included in court documents. Etheridge claimed Michaels accused her of having to "support so many households because you broke so many households." Etheridge accused Michaels of withholding the kids and burning their son with a cigarette.

Still, according to The Blast, they eventually managed to make peace. Etheridge would continue paying Michaels $23,000 a month and share joint custody. However, she'd also get 50% of royalties from a selection of Etheridge's songs and three of their properties. But wait! Not so fast! They were back for yet another round in 2020. The outlet reports that Etheridge was the winner that time, slashing Michaels' monthly payments to $10,000 a month and taking away her royalty rights.