New details have emerged from court filings in former Chicago Cubs star Ben Zobrist’s sordid divorce saga, including how his Christian singer wife allegedly feted her pastor lover with a $30,000 retirement party.
The 40-year-old Major League Baseball player, who has since retired, alleged in a lawsuit filed in May that his wife, Julianna, had a year-long affair with their married Nashville pastor Bryon Yawn who, at one point, had given the couple marriage counseling.
Ben and Julianna each filed for divorce in 2019 after 14 years of marriage. More than two years later, the former couple remain separated as their case, made complicated by multimillion-dollar claims and lawsuits, continues to wind its way through the courts.
The Zobrists’ divorce is scheduled to go to trial in August.
Court documents allege that Julianna Zobrist, the wife of Chicago Cubs star Ben Zobrist (pictured together, left), spent $30,000 on a retirement party for her pastor lover Byron Yawn in December 2018 (right)
Julianna, a mom-of-three Christian singer, admitted in court records to buying a burner phone for the purpose of communicating with Yawn
In court filings obtained by the Chicago Tribune on Monday, Ben Zobrist claimed the ‘genesis’ of the unraveling of his marriage was the retirement party that his wife, a Christian singer, organized in December 2018 for Yawn, who was stepping away from his role as elder of Community Bible Church in Nashville.
‘The one-night party cost almost $30,000 and was conducted at the Zobrist farm,’ according to the documents.
Julianna allegedly paid for the lavish soiree out of the ‘farm account’ that her husband usually did not check.
During the celebration, Julianna and Pastor Yawn both got drunk and were described in the filings as ‘dancing “on” each other in a provocative way that was very embarrassing to Ben Zobrist, especially in front of their close church friends.’
The dad-of-three baseball player privately rebuked his wife for her conduct, to which Julianna was said to have taken ‘umbrage.’
Prior to the party, Ben stated in court documents that his wife told him she had ‘new thoughts and opinions that differed from some of their religious background and family beliefs.’
In her own court filing, Julianna said she ‘began questioning some of her religious beliefs,’ and reached out to Yawn to seek ‘solace in his support.’ As time passed, their relationship turned romantic.
During a deposition, Julianna testified that her relationship with the married pastor ‘crossed the line’ in September 2018.
Julianna was said to have told Ben in 2018 that she was having ‘new thoughts’ about their religious beliefs. The pair are pictured together in 2016
Julianna, a mom-of-three Christian singer, admitted in court records to buying a burner phone for the purpose of communicating with Yawn. She promised Ben she would stop talking to the pastor while they were in counseling
Ben allegedly learned of his wife’s infidelity from Yawn’s own wife, Robin (pictured left with the pastor)
Ben and Julianna filed for legal separation and divorce, respectively, in May 2019, but then decided to try marriage counseling.
Ben took a leave from the Cubs after learning of Julianna’s affair with Yawn from the pastor’s then-wife, Robin.
During that time, Ben claimed that his wife continued communicating with Yawn ‘despite her promises to the contrary’ using a burning phone.
Julianna admitted to buying a disposable phone in June 2019 to keep in touch with the pastor, and then throwing away the device in an alleged attempt to conceal evidence of the affair.
Julianna now is demanding Ben pay her $4million as part of their divorce settlement because she claims he gave up his career and lost out on his contract after her affair with Yawn.
Ben and Julianna both filed for divorce in May 2019 after 14 years of marriage
Julianna is claiming in pretrial court documents, obtained by the Chicago Tribune, that Zobrist was ‘guilty of failing to preserve marital assets’ when he stepped away from the team.
As a result of his leave of absence, Zobrist only played two months of the 2019 season and earned a prorated $4.5million of his $12million contract, according to the court filings.
Julianna accused the 2016 World Series MVP ‘basically giving up’ and losing out on income when he ‘intentionally and voluntarily’ took leave.
She is seeking a 50-50 split of their marital assets and the additional $4million, which she claims is the ‘amount of money he failed to preserve by abruptly and intentionally failing to satisfy his baseball contract’.
Zobrist’s attorney slammed the claim as ‘utterly absurd’ and accused Julianna of trying to shift the blame after she admitted to having the affair with their pastor.
‘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,’ the attorney said in the filing.
‘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.’
Juliana, who shares three children with her husband, is claiming Zobrist was ‘guilty of failing to preserve marital assets’ when he stepped away from the team in May 2019 amid their marital issues
Zobrist, who is seeking a 60-40 split of their assets, has accused his wife over overspending from the marital estate by $690,000.
In the divorce proceedings, Zobrist is seeking shared custody of their three children. Julianna, however, is after full custody.
Separate to the divorce trial, Zobrist filed a $6million lawsuit against Yawn in June for emotional distress and allegedly defrauding his charity.
Zobrist alleged in that lawsuit that he initially believed his wife and Yawn were only an emotional relationship but discovered in June 2020 that they had been having an affair.
The $6million is the income Zobrist lost out on while taking his leave of absence.
The lawsuit alleges that the Zobrists, who married in 2005 and have three children, met Yawn more than 16 years ago through the Community Bible Church where he was a pastor.
The pastor gave the Zobrists pre and post-marital counseling, the lawsuit says. He also gave Zobrist advice regarding anxiety and depression.
Yawn and Julianna started speaking frequently in 2018 and allegedly started having the affair that fall. They are alleged to have used pre-paid cell phones to keep it a secret.
At the time, Zobrist was confiding in Yawn that his marriage was crumbling.
The baseball star told his pastor that Julianna had consulted a divorce lawyer, according to the lawsuit.
At the time, Zobrist was confiding in Yawn that his marriage was crumbling in a series of texts included in the lawsuit. The baseball star told his pastor that Julianna had consulted a divorce lawyer, according to the lawsuit
In a text message to Yawn about his marriage breakdown, Zobrist wrote: ‘She used the words emotional, verbal and spiritual abuse. I was shocked. Can’t be 2,000 miles away from her and kids while she’s thinking that about me. I have owned every bit of my sin, but I will not own the abuse angle.’
Yawn replied: ‘I’m sure it’s like getting knocked off your feet and into your head. But I can’t imagine what it feels like in this moment. Your (sic) a husband and a father first. That’s who you are.’
He also urged Zobrist to give his wife space, according to the suit.
During this time, the lawsuit alleges that Yawn also got a leadership position at Patriot Forward, which is a non-profit that Zobrist had founded to help athletes with mental health.
Yawn was fired in March 2019 but fraudulently continued to receive a $3,500 a month salary until that May, the lawsuit claims.
It is not clear how he was able to receive the salary even after being terminated.
Yawn’s relationship with Julianna allegedly came to light after the pastor’s wife, Robin Yawn, discovered the pre-paid phones the pair had been using in May 2019.
She told Zobrist that she believed her husband was having an emotional relationship with Julianna.
Zobrist took leave from the Cubs and filed for divorce, according to the lawsuit.
The baseball star only discovered in June 2020 – as a result of court documents filed during the divorce proceedings – that his wife had allegedly had a sexual relationship with Yawn.
Zobrist rejoined the Cubs in September 2019 but retired at the end of the season.
Yawn is no longer associated with the church and is now CEO of the Nashville business-consulting firm Forrest Crain & Co.