On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Thursday, August 29, 2013.

What interests me about divorce law is that it impacts all parts of society. It affects the rich, the middle class, the poor alike . . . pretty much everyone.

Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp and a billionaire, is going through his own divorce with wife Wendi Deng. No doubt before he married Wendi, Rupert had excellent advice. What can you learn from a billionaire’s experience that could help you through your own divorce, or perhaps save your marriage?

The New York Times recently ran a story and I thought it had some good lessons:

Agreements

The Murdochs not only signed a prenuptial agreement before they got married, but after their marriage they signed two additional postnuptial agreements delineating the separation of assets in the event of a divorce.

Agreements make the separation of assets cleaner. They do more than divide assets though, they can spell out each person’s obligations during the marriage, things like who pays for which expenses.

But if there is only one prenuptial agreement, it could be so old it’s useless. Also, prenups can be challenged. Prenuptial agreements are routinely enforced in Florida, and you are allowed to make a bad deal.

Dividing Assets

Dividing assets between spouses is not as simple as deciding to split it 50-50 – even with agreements. Very often assets have appreciated over the course of several years.

When property appreciates, you need to distinguish between passive and active appreciation. A passive asset could be an investment account which is never traded.

A business, on the other hand, is an active investment, and the percentage a spouse is entitled to may depend on different things.

Even with the most sophisticated couples, such as the Murdochs, unless you clairvoyant, issues will arise that no one considered in earlier agreements, and are prime for negotiation.

Children

The care of any young child is the primary concern of the courts. The Murdochs are rumored to have some custody arrangements and child support for their daughters.

Custody arrangements and child support are rarely part of prenuptial agreements, and are often used by the less-moneyed spouse as leverage in negotiations – a practice sometimes called “linkage”.

Florida has child support guidelines which mandate what the minimum support for children should be. The basic child support payment does not include private school and extracurricular activities, which can be more than the child support.

When it comes to agreeing on what people believe is their rightful share, think of it this way: If you’re 10 percent apart, you’ll settle. If you’re 20 percent, there’s a chance. But if you’re 50 or 75 percent away, you’re going to war.” Knowing this, the Murdochs time and expense in signing agreements will help them avoid trial.

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