Christian MLB star Ben Zobrist alleges wife spent $30K on party for pastor amid affair

Ben Zobrist, Julianna Zobrist
ABC features Ben Zobrist and Julianna Zobrist on "Celebrity Love Stories" on March 7, 2017. |

New details have emerged from court documents concerning the extramarital affair of Christian singer Julianna Zobrist and her former Tennessee pastor and marital counselor. A family law attorney believes the reported details of the case could give her estranged husband, former MLB player Ben Zobrist, an edge in divorce proceedings. 

Ben Zobrist alleged in new court filings that his marriage began to crumble after his wife spent tens of thousands of dollars on Pastor Byron Yawn's retirement party in 2018. She is now suing her husband, alleging that he failed to protect their family assets. 

In new court documents obtained by The Chicago Tribune this week, Ben Zobrist alleges that a retirement party hosted by his wife in December 2018 for Yawn, who was stepping away from his role as an elder of Community Bible Church in Nashville, was the beginning of the downfall of their marriage.

The 2016 World Series MVP claimed that Julianna Zobrist spent almost $30,000 on the party without his knowledge. 

The court filing stated that “Mrs. Zobrist paid for the party out of the ‘farm account’ that her husband typically did not review, apparently to keep the cost of the party unknown to him. … Mrs. Zobrist and Pastor Yawn both became intoxicated and are dancing ‘on’ each other in a provocative way that was very embarrassing to Ben Zobrist, especially in front of their close church friends."

“Wife took umbrage at her husband’s rebuking her privately after the party for acting in this manner in public. However, unknown to husband, wife was already ‘in love’ with Pastor Yawn,” the document continued.

A family spending report commissioned by the outspoken Christian husband noted that financial advisers reported that Julianna Zobrist’s spending habits increased from 2018 to 2019 by 174%, The Tribune reports. 

The total spending on clothing alone reportedly went from $134,000 in 2018 to $289,000 in 2019.

The new documents also revealed that Julianna Zobrist, who recently took to social media to say she would not disclose things publicly, is seeking to split the marital assets evenly along with an additional $4 million for the “amount of money” her husband “failed to preserve by abruptly and intentionally failing to satisfy his baseball contract.”

The couple separately filed for divorce in 2019. Ben Zobrist's lawsuit filed on May 6 against Yawn claimed that Julianna Zobrist had an affair with Yawn.

Zobrist, a devout Christian who played in the MLB from 2006 to 2019, is suing the former minister for damages in the amount of $6 million, claiming he defrauded his charitable foundation and had an affair with his wife of 14 years. He accused his wife of “inappropriate marital conduct.”

While his marriage was falling apart, Zobrist took a leave of absence from baseball and later retired after the 2019 season. During that time, he sought marital counseling from Yawn to try and restore the marriage.

Zobrist’s attorney, Helen S. Rogers, called Julianna Zobrist’s $4 million ask “utterly absurd.” She told Judge Michael W. Binkley that she believes the singer attempts to shift blame from the extramarital affair she had with Yawn.

“Rather than accepting blame for having torn her husband’s heart out by having an affair with their pastor, she expected him to be able to totally focus in an elite athletic job that required (100%) of his physical and mental energy,” Rogers wrote in a court filing, according to The Chicago Tribune.

“It is Mrs. Zobrist, by having the extramarital affair and confessing same to her husband, and not disclosing the true extent of her affair, that caused him such extreme mental distress and difficulty that resulted in an inability to finish his long and very successful career in the way that he had hoped for and planned for.”

Zobrist claimed that his estranged wife overspent from their marital estate by “at least $691,602.86.” He also accused the mother of their three kids of keeping her relationship with Zobrist going during her affair so that he could continue to increase their estate. Instead of splitting things evenly, Zobrist is seeking 60% of the couple’s assets.

Family law attorney Holly Davis of Kirker Davis LLP in Austin, Texas, shared some insight into what she believes could come of this high-profile case. 

“The Zobrist divorce is really racy because it involves an affair between a Christian pop singer and a pastor. But the moral of the story is if you think you're being clever by funneling money to your boyfriend (or girlfriend) during a divorce, divorce law has rules about how your spouse can get that money back and you can be punished for it," Davis told The Christian Post.

“And if you're simultaneously increasing the size of your estate through fraud, divorce courts have a whole system in place to punish the wrongdoer. Divorce courts have seen it all before, and they’re more than prepared to deal with it.”

Davis explained that judges normally have a lot of leeway in divorce court as they strive to create an equitable outcome.

“It's a subjective decision on how to divide things up. So if someone has been a really bad actor, then the court might go more in favor of the other side,” Davis continued.

"Because there is so much troubling behavior on Julianna Zobrist’s part — having an affair, and simultaneously doing things to enrich their community estate before the divorce — there could be a big, wild swing,” she insisted.

Davis broke down why motive in this divorce can play a role in the final determination. 

“Julianna was having an affair with their pastor, who was also serving as their marriage counselor, and the pastor told Zobrist some self-serving things, such as advising him to give her space," Davis stated. "If he was compensated for his time as a marriage counselor, and took money from the couple under the guise of being a religious counselor, it's possible Ben has a fraud claim.”

“Ben was also employing this pastor as part of his charitable foundation, so there was money being given to the pastor for services that may or may not have been rendered," he added. "This is another potential fraud claim that can be folded into the divorce case, as happened in Kelly Clarkson’s divorce.”

Davis stressed that before Ben Zobrist knew that his wife was intimate with the pastor, they were having marriage problems. 

"Ben quit playing baseball to focus full time on fixing the marriage," she stressed. "But his wife convinced him to go back to work and earn more money. This looks really bad on her part, because she and the pastor may have been convincing him to earn more money in order to increase the size of the estate she would get in a divorce.”

She believes Ben Zobrist could "reasonably make a claim for mental anguish in addition to fraud." 

"If he’s successful in these claims, she might have to pay him damages," Davis believes. 

Julianna Zobrist has admitted that she is guilty of inappropriate marital conduct in the civil suit but added that her soon-to-be ex-husband is also guilty of inappropriate marital conduct.

The former professional athlete has denied claims of marital misconduct.

The divorce will reportedly be a seven-day bench trial starting Aug. 9 in Franklin, Tennessee.

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