Month: October 2021

Transformer: Marital Settlement Agreement

Actress Megan Fox and her estranged husband Brian Austin Green are transformers: changing from married to single after finalizing their marital settlement agreement. The settlement agreement should resolve all of the parenting and financial issues raised in their divorce.

marital settlement agreement

More Than Meets the Eye

Actress Megan Fox, 35, is one of the stars of the Transformers movie franchise. Her husband, David Austin Green, 48, is also an actor, best known for his portrayal of David Silver on the television series Beverly Hills, 90210

According to many reports, the couple did not have a prenuptial agreement before getting married. This means that, under California law, they will have to divide all of the community property they acquired during their decade-long marriage.

Details about the marital settlement agreement are murky. It is unclear whether either one of the parties will be paying alimony or child support, though the divorce documents refer to a settlement being agreed upon outside of court.

Regarding parenting, the couple agreed to share joint legal and physical custody of their three children, a highly contentious issue for many couples, but a demand which Fox requested when she initially filed for divorce in November 2020.

Fox will also get her legal last name changed back from Green. News reports indicate both Fox and Green have moved on. Fox has been in a highly publicized romance with Machine Gun Kelly since mid-2020, while Green has been dating “DWTS” pro Sharna Burgess.

Florida Marital Settlement Agreements

I’ve written about agreements before. Most family law cases are resolved by agreement, not by trial. A Marital Settlement Agreement is the method to resolving all of the issues, and is the final product of the negotiations.

A marital settlement agreement puts in writing all the aspects of the divorcing parties’ settlement. Topics covered in the Marital Settlement Agreement include the parenting plan and timesharing schedule, the division of the parties’ assets and liabilities (called “equitable distribution”), alimony, child support, payment of attorney’s fees and costs, and any other items to which the parties have agreed.

A marital settlement agreement entered into by the parties and ratified by a final judgment is a contract, subject to the laws of contract. The enforceability of contracts in Florida is a matter of importance in Florida public policy.

Marital Settlement Agreements in Florida are treated differently than prenuptial agreements. There’s a good reason for the difference in treatment, and it turns on the adequacy of the knowledge of the finances involved.

The adequacy of knowledge can be plausibly raised only when an agreement was reached by people in conditions of mutual trust and confidence and who are not dealing at arm’s length – such as when you are negotiating a prenuptial agreement.

But once you are involved in divorce proceedings in court, you are dealing at arm’s length and without the special fiduciary relationship of unestranged spouses. Questions about the adequacy of your knowledge of finances don’t really exist when you are in court and have the opportunity to take financial discovery.

Hope and Faith

The couple had a rollercoaster relationship from the start. After meeting on the set of “Hope & Faith” when Fox was just 18 in 2004, they were engaged and living together by 2006. In 2009, they made a “mutual decision” to end their engagement only to be re-engaged and married by the end of June 2010.

Four years and two kids into their marriage, Fox stated very publicly that there was no “intimacy whatsoever” with her husband during a red carpet interview. Fox has been in a new relationship with Machine Gun Kelly consisting of a  whirlwind of PDA’s and selfies.

Her soon to be ex-husband Green confirmed:

“I’ve never met him, but Megan and I have talked about him. They’re friends at this point, and from what she’s expressed, he’s a really nice, genuine guy, and I trust her judgment.”

The Fox News article is here.

 

Validity of Prenuptial Agreements

Courts which uphold the validity of prenuptial agreements have singer, Kelly Clarkson, singing a happy tune. A family court judge recently declared her prenup was valid. The ruling means Clarkson holds the reins to a $10.4 million Montana ranch where her former husband, Brandon Blackstock, has been living and refusing to leave.

Prenuptial Agreement

Stronger in the Treasure State

Singer, songwriter, and The Voice coach, Kelly Clarkson, gave her fans a sneak peek of her ranch in rural Montana, where she was sheltering-in-place with her family amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, before ruling on ownership of the ranch, the judge ruled that her music manager and ex-husband, Brandon Blackstock, would have to pay $81,000 per month for the upkeep for the Montana ranch where he was then residing.

Although court papers show that he is only making about $10,000 per month – a far cry from his ex’s $1.5 million monthly income – Clarkson was then paying him $150,000 in spousal support and another $45,000 in child support each month.

Recently the family court rejected Blackstock’s argument that the Montana ranch is marital property and should be shared equally by both exes, according to the Sept. 30 order obtained by E! News. Instead, the judge upheld their premarital agreement, and found that the Montana ranch was Clarkson’s non-marital property identified in the prenup.

The family judge’s ruling means Clarkson takes control of the ranch:

“The Court further finds that the Montana Ranch and the other two Montana properties are not titled in both of the Parties’ names either as joint tenants with right of survivorship or as tenants by the entireties, as required under the PMA to create marital property,” reads the decision. “The Court therefore rejects Respondent’s position that the Montana Ranch and other Montana properties are marital property owned 50/50 by the Parties.”

The situation appears to be complicated for the pair: While Clarkson owns the property, her ex-husband is the one living there.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are not just for celebrity singers and songwriters, and they are about much more than just resolving expensive Montana ranches acquired during a marriage.

Any couple who brings any personal or business assets to their marriage can benefit from a prenuptial agreement. They are important to have in place before a couple starts investing in businesses, properties, and other investments.

But prenups are frequently challenged in court.

Florida has both case law and a statute to help lawyers, judges and the parties determine if a prenuptial agreement is enforceable. For example, Florida adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. The Act requires that all premarital agreements be in writing and signed by both parties. It is enforceable without consideration other than the marriage itself.

Couples wanting to sign one can enter into a premarital agreement with respect to their rights and obligations in any of their property, whenever and wherever acquired or located; their right to buy, sell, use, transfer, or otherwise manage and control their property and the disposition of their property if they separate, divorce, die, or any other event.

Prenuptial agreements may be challenged in court, as Kelly Clarkson’s former husband tried. When ruling on the validity of a prenup, Florida courts must consider things such as fraud, duress, coercion, in addition to the unfairness of the agreement, and whether there was any financial disclosure.

Mr. Know It All

In order to beef up his claim to marital property, after their separation, Blackstock made a “deliberate choice” to “change his life” and become a full-time rancher, according to an August filing obtained by E! News. At the time, he was “exclusively using” the Montana ranch as his “residence and business.”

Clarkson previously requested permission to sell the ranch because of the “financial burden” of maintaining a property that was only being used by her ex-husband. The costs of maintaining the ranch are $81,000 per month, the court determined.

However, the judge initially rejected her request to sell the Montana site. Blackstock was ordered to pay the hefty property fees beginning in April 2021. For her part, Clarkson was required to pay nearly $200,000 per month to Blackstock, a former music manager, in spousal and child support. He is responsible for “100% of the cost” of transporting their two children (River, 7, and Remington, 5) to and from Montana. He has a 25 percent custodial timeshare.

After the ruling on the prenuptial agreement, Clarkson now has the right to sell the Montana ranch as she is the one who purchased it, according to the report. The ex couple’s divorce has been ‘bifurcated’ meaning the end of the marriage has officially been declared and some financial issues were reserved on.

The NBC Chicago news article is here.