Category: Agreements

Enforcing or Modifying Your Marital Settlement Agreement

We scored another big appellate win which sheds light on the question: are you enforcing or modifying your marital settlement agreement when a family court requires the continuation of soccer and other extra-curriculars?

The Beautiful Game

In our recent appeal, the parents had three children. After less than a decade of marriage, they divorced in Portugal, but they never had a parenting plan for their children. After they both moved to Miami with the children, a family court ratified their agreed parenting plan.

Under their parenting plan, they agreed to certain extracurricular activities, including organized activities such as soccer, lessons and special training. However, the sports and activities had to be mutually agreed on by the parents in accordance with Florida’s shared parental responsibility statute.

All of the children’s current extracurricular activities, especially ‘the beautiful game,’ soccer, were agreed upon by both parents. Additionally, they agreed that the parent exercising time sharing with the children handle the transportation with the necessary equipment.

Although all three of the children were traditionally dedicated to sporting activities, their involvement in youth soccer travel teams had increased, requiring more of a time commitment because the children are expected to attend frequent practices, and regularly traveling outside of their local community for games and tournaments.

The father filed a motion to stop the soccer commitments of the children and to eliminate his obligation to transport the children to certain competitive events during his timesharing.

The family judge heard his motion, and, after considering the relative merits of the parties, along with the language reflected within the parenting plan, entreated the parties to reach an agreement as to enrollment and participation in the relevant activities.

When that failed, the court conducted another hearing and authorized the mother to re-enroll the children in their respective leagues and directing the father to transport the children to those competitive events scheduled during his timesharing.

He appealed.

Florida Marital Settlement Agreements

I’ve written about modifications and enforcement of marital settlement 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, and often times: soccer and other extra-curricular activities 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 and modifications of contracts in Florida is a matter of importance in Florida public policy.

Because a marital settlement agreement is treated like any other contract, and is subject to interpretation like any other contract, they can be enforced by the court. Unique to marital settlement agreements though, they may be modified too.

But sometimes it is difficult to tell whether the court’s action is a modification of a contract or the enforcement of a contract. Our recent appellate goal hopefully sheds some light on that distinction.

Goal!

Ruling in our favor, the appellate court wrote an opinion stating that under the principle of shared parental responsibility, major decisions affecting the welfare of the child are to be made after the parents confer and reach an agreement.

However, in cases in which the parents cannot reach agreement on such a decision, the dispute should be presented to the trial court for resolution. In resolving the impasse, the lower tribunal must be guided by a consideration of the best interests of the child.

In our case, the parenting plan allows for shared decisions over extracurricular activities, but prohibited the unreasonable withholding of consent. So, the court was properly permitted to explore the facts and circumstances surrounding both continued participation and transportation.

At the time the parents signed the parenting plan, the children were already heavily involved in soccer. By including a provision that the “present extracurricular activities are agreed upon by both parents,” and allocating continuing enrollment expenses and other relevant allowances for league travel, the agreement clearly anticipated a continuation of such participation.

Further, as the trial court did not “change the status quo [or] alter the rights and obligations of the parties,” but merely rejected the unreasonable withholding of consent, we conclude the decision was grounded in enforcement of the existing 7 terms of the judgment, and affirmed.

The opinion is here.

 

Straight Outta Court

Dr Dre is wondering if his prenup will get him straight outta court. He announced that he and his wife Nicole Young are getting divorced after 24-years of marriage. Young filed for divorce from Dre, whose real name is Andre Romelle Young, citing irreconcilable differences. One of the interesting issues is whether Young signed a prenuptial agreement.

Compton

Straight Outta Compton

The couple, who married in May 1996, share two children together, son Truice, 23, and daughter Truly, 19. Dre also has four children from previous relationships, daughters Tyra Young and La Tanya Danielle Young, and sons Marcel and Curtis.

The music mogul, 55, and Young, 50, announced their split after 24 years of marriage in June, and Dre revealed that the couple, who wed in 1996, does have a prenuptial agreement, despite initial reports that indicated the two do not. Young is asking for spousal support and a division of property.

In 2019, Forbes estimated that Dre’s net worth was $800m, making him the second-wealthiest hip hop artist in the world that year. The rapper’s fortune is in part due to the success of his headphone line, Beats by Dre, which was acquired by Apple in 2014 for $3bn.

According to TMZ, Dre, who listed the date of their separation as March 27, 2020, and cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for their split, agreed to pay spousal support but says any distribution of property should be controlled by their prenuptial agreement. Young’s petition did not mention a prenup and the outlet reported that she has claimed she never signed one.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are about more than just protecting yourself after your marriage. A prenuptial agreement (or “prenup” for short) is a contract between people intending to marry.

A prenup determines spousal rights when the marriage ends by death or divorce. This can be especially important for those who boldly go into fourth marriages.

If you divorce without a prenup, your property rights are determined under state law, and a spouse may have a claim to alimony while the suit for divorce is pending and after entry of a judgment. Many couples divorcing would prefer not to spend too much time litigating in family court.

That’s where prenups come in. Prospective spouses may limit or expand state laws by an agreement. Prenups are also used to protect the interests of children from a prior marriage, and to avoid a contested divorce.

There are many problems with prenuptial agreements too. If a prenuptial agreement includes any provisions that violate the law or public policy, it may automatically be deemed invalid.

Additionally, a prenuptial agreement cannot waive child support, and can’t set an amount for child support. Courts have plenary power over support issues, so child support amounts are determined by courts based on our child support guidelines.

Also, a premarital agreement may not be enforceable in a family court case, for instance, if it was not signed voluntarily; or if it was the product of fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching.

Deez Prenups

The 55-year-old, who started his career as a member of the rap group NWA, also founded the record label Aftermath Entertainment, which previously signed Eminem and 50 Cent.

In 2015, Dre apologized to “the women I’ve hurt” following allegations of physical abuse against women, telling The New York Times:

Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life. However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. I’ve been married for 19 years and every day I’m working to be a better man for my family, seeking guidance along the way. I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again.

This divorce, given the stakes and the profiles of the parties, is expected to be completed relatively quickly and privately. Generally, anything he acquired before marriage would be his separate property, with or without a prenuptial agreement. Dre sold Beats during the marriage so there may not be a separate, or non-marital, component to it – meaning there is a very large sum of money that is at stake as marital property.

Young is going to get half of what he’s worth very likely, but while Dr. Dre has claimed he is willing to pay spousal support, Young probably won’t need spousal support after the marital estate is divided. She asked for temporary support and she may be able to get hundreds of thousands of dollars a month before the case is resolved. The couple was last seen together in public in February at the Tom Ford fashion show.

The Independent article is here.

 

Da Vinci Code meets the Family Code: Setting Aside a Settlement Agreement

The Da Vinci Code meets the Family Code as popular author Dan Brown’s ex-wife has filed a claim to set aside their settlement agreement – after their divorce ended – and sued him for money damages. The inferno in New Hampshire will deal with fraudulent financial affidavits and other claims to set aside a marital settlement agreement.

Setting Aside Agreements

Deception Point

In a lawsuit filed this week, Blythe Brown is suing Dan Brown for misrepresenting the couple’s wealth in a sworn financial affidavit he signed as part of their divorce agreement, and for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Author Dan Brown, is a New Hampshire native. He is best known for his thriller novels, including the Robert Langdon novels Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol, Inferno, and Origin. His novels are treasure hunts that usually take place over a period of 24 hours. They feature recurring themes of cryptography, art, and conspiracy theories.

Dan Brown’s books have been translated into 57 languages and, as of 2012, have sold over 200 million copies. Three of them, Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and Inferno, have been made into films.

He is being sued by his ex-wife, who now claims he engaged in “unlawful and egregious conduct” that amounted to a “proverbial life of lies” during the last several years of their marriage.

In the lawsuit filed in New Hampshire, Blythe Brown alleges that the 56-year-old author, to whom she was married from 1997 until last December, “secretly siphoned” off vast sums of money “to conduct sordid, extra-marital affairs” with women, including a Dutch horse trainer on whom he lavished extravagant gifts.

According to the former wife the lawsuit is about standing up for myself and asserting my self-worth. I have continually tried to absorb the shocking truth withheld during our divorce that Dan had been leading a double life for years during our marriage, all while coming home to me.

Florida Marital Settlement Agreements

I have written on the topic of agreements before. In Florida, different types of agreements are treated differently. A prenuptial agreement, for example would be covered under the Premarital Agreement Act.

An agreement reached, not before a marriage like a prenup, but after divorce case has already been filed, is treated with a different standard.

That’s because after a couple become involved in full-fledged litigation over divorce property and alimony rights, they are necessarily dealing at arm’s length and without any kind of special fiduciary relationship of un-estranged marital parties or single people.

In cases like the Brown case, which involved a stipulated settlement agreement made in the course of what was likely fierce divorce litigation, a former spouse challenging a litigated settlement agreement is limited to showing fraud, misrepresentation or coercion. Any kind of inquiry into the “unreasonableness” or “unfairness” of the settlement agreement to either party is usually not permitted.

Angels and Demons

Blythe also claimed credit for inspiring much of his work and coming up with the premise for “The Da Vinci Code.” She also alleged that Brown hid scores of future projects worth “millions” from her, including a television series as well as a children’s book due out in September.

The most explosive allegations, however, are the extramarital affairs. Describing Brown’s behavior as “unlawful and egregious,” Brown said she only learned about it after the pair divorced in 2019 after 21 years of marriage.

She accuses the best-selling author of secretly diverting funds to pay for gifts to an unnamed horse trainer, including several Friesian horses and financing for his lover’s horse training business. She alleges the “illegal behavior” took place in New Hampshire, Europe and the Caribbean.

“Dan has lived a proverbial life of lies for at least the past six years, seeming to be the epitome of a world-famous novelist leading a simple life in his home state of New Hampshire, while in reality he was something quite different,” the lawsuit claims.

For years, she alleges, that Dan has secretly removed substantial funds from his and Blythe’s hard-earned marital assets to conduct sordid, extra-marital affairs with women — one half his age — and to pursue a clandestine life.

Dan Brown, in a statement, said he was “stunned” by the allegations and called the complaint “written without regard for the truth.” He said he never misled his ex-wife on their finances during their divorce and that she ended up with half their holdings after they divorced.

“For reasons known only to her and possibly her lawyer, Blythe Brown has created through this suit a fictional and vindictive account of aspects of our marriage designed to hurt and embarrass me.”

Blythe Brown, a horse enthusiast who is involved in horse and carriage driving competitions, insisted she was only filing the lawsuit to stand up for herself and assert her “self-worth.”

In her lawsuit, Blythe Brown portrayed herself as inspiring Brown to give up songwriting after the pair met in 1990 and recognizing his “unlimited potential as a writer of fiction.” She also alleges she helped craft key themes and ideas for many of his books, “served as lead researcher, first-line editor, and critic, and was Dan’s literary partner in the fullest sense.”

“Indeed, Blythe and Dan formed a partnership in the literary world that was to last for nearly thirty years, taking them places that they could never have imagined,” according to the lawsuit, in which she seeks unspecified damages.

During a 2006 trial against the publisher of the “The Da Vinci Code,” the court heard how Blythe Brown was an essential contributor to his million-selling historical thriller.

Two authors unsuccessfully sued, claiming that Brown “appropriated the architecture” of their book in a high-profile London court case.

According to witness statements and court testimony, Blythe Brown led the massive research effort, supplied countless notes and suggestions and offered an invaluable “female perspective” for a book immersed in “the sacred feminine.”

In a statement, Dan Brown told the Globe he’s “stunned” that his ex-wife is “making false claims” and says he was fair and truthful in their divorce settlement. On the day that Blythe and I married, I never remotely thought that we eventually would grow so far apart.

The Boston Globe article is here.

 

Israeli Prenuptial Agreements are Kosher

Whether Israeli prenuptial agreements are kosher is a big question in the holy land as Israel’s version of Real Housewives, Nicol Raidman, has filed for divorce from her former oligarch and billionaire industrialist husband Michael Cherney.

Israeli Prenuptial Agreement

Land of Milk and Honey

Nicol Raidman is a businesswoman, socialite and former reality TV celebrity in Israel, who recently announced she is divorcing her billionaire husband in what is shaping up to be the most expensive divorce lawsuit in Israeli history, Channel 12 news reported Monday.

After 11 years of marriage, Raidman and industrialist Michael Cherney are dissolving their union. But Raidman is alleging that Cherney has failed to honor his prenup with her, which promised her $25 million (NIS 86 million) in any settlement.

She is now planning to take Cherney to court and demanding hundreds of millions of shekels under their prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial agreements are generally enforceable in Israel, if authorized before a notary, a marriage registrar, or by the family court or the religious court. In fact, former Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, called on couples getting married to sign prenuptial agreements to ensure that husbands will not withhold a get, or Jewish writ of divorce, from their wives.

In Israel, where all divorces are subject to religious law, the norm has left thousands of women in legal limbo due to husbands who refuse to grant divorces. The phenomenon has received a lot of attention in recent years as rabbis try to battle husbands who are “get-refusers.”

Some Jewish groups mandate its members require couples to sign a prenuptial agreement to avoid such scenarios. The agreement, commonly referred to as a “halachic prenup,” generally penalizes the husband financially for refusing to give the get.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are not just for celebrity sports figures, and they are about much more than just resolving uncertainty in a marriage.

Any couple who brings any personal or business assets to the union can benefit from one. They are also 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 courts must consider things such as fraud, duress, coercion, in addition to the unfairness of the agreement, and whether there was any financial disclosure.

Real Housewives of the Holy Land

Cherney’s lawyer told the network that any and all claims would be made to the court rather than the media. Raidman is known to be a close friend of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara.

In 2011-2013 Raidman took part in the Channel 10 reality television show “Me’usharot” based on the US show “The Real Housewives.” She has launched her own luxury clothing and perfume brands.

Cherney, an oligarch who made his fortune in the former Soviet Union, is a close confidant of Yisrael Beyteinu party leader Avigdor Liberman. The couple have two children.

The Times of Israel article is here.

 

Prenuptial Agreements Take Center Field

Prenuptial agreements take center field, former Cardinal center fielder, Jim Edmonds, is finding out. That’s because his estranged wife, Meghan King, is trying to strike out their prenuptial agreement after the divorce was filed. Can prenuptial agreements be challenged?

Prenuptial Agreement Center Field

Play Ball!

Baseball is back in the news this summer, and retired slugger Jim Edmonds, is not having a great season. The four-time All-Star, who played 17 seasons most of which with the St. Louis Cardinals and California/Anaheim Angels, was hospitalized for pneumonia earlier in the year, and now admits he tested positive for the coronavirus.

But striking out a prenuptial agreement is the play of the day. Prenuptial agreements set out what property stays yours, what property does not, and ensure that your assets stay in your family line for the benefit of your children from another relationship and other reasons. Prenups can even be used to limit your exposure to paying alimony.

But can Meghan get out of her prenuptial agreement? Jimmy Baseball’s divorce is at a standstill until a judge decides if his prenuptial agreement is valid.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are not just for celebrity sports figures, and they are about much more than just resolving uncertainty in a marriage.

Any couple who brings any personal or business assets to the union can benefit from one. They are also 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 courts must consider things such as fraud, duress, coercion, in addition to the unfairness of the agreement, and whether there was any financial disclosure.

Batter Up!

According to reports, Meghan herself has publicly explained the agreement was done at her urging because she didn’t want Jim’s family to think she was trying to take his money.

The mom-of-three openly discussed the matter throughout her time starring on the Bravo reality TV series and explained why she was so adamant about moving forward with a prenup.

“Way before we ever got engaged, I suggested him getting a prenup to protect his feelings about our marriage, about where my heart is coming from. And honestly, a big part of the reason, totally aside from the whole marriage thing, why I wanted it is to protect the children because I never wanted the children’s mothers or the children to think that me as their step mom or as this new person in their life was going to take things from them.

Jim, 49, has four kids of his own from previous relationships. He and Meghan welcomed three kids, daughter Aspen and twin boys Hart and Hayes, during their marriage. They split custody 50-50.

Additionally, reports say Jim is paying Meghan “more than three times” the amount of child support that’s been suggested by the court and continues to foot the bill for many of her living expenses. He is letting her live in one of his homes in St. Louis and is paying the mortgage and all the bills for that house. He gives her money for her full-time nanny and housekeeper.

He pays for practically every single expense related to the children. And, if that wasn’t enough, he pays half the rent on her Los Angeles beach house. Jim has been beyond generous to Meghan and provides full financial support for his children,” the rep asserts.

Meghan has told E! News:

“I’m looking forward to putting this behind me amicably and I don’t wish to discuss the private details of my divorce at this time.”

In an Instagram comment shared by Meghan and captured by tabloids last month, she shot down one follower’s claim that she’s received “serious child support” from her estranged husband.

“Girl I have a career thank you very much!” she wrote back. “That child support is not buying me gold and baubles. It barely pays for groceries for my tribe!”

The E!-online article is here.

 

Prenups Can Speed A Divorce

Exhibiting “warp speed”, actor William Shatner’s divorce from his fourth wife, Elizabeth Martin, has been finalized. The “Star Trek” actor filed for divorce last month, and apparently finalized it a month later. His prenuptial agreement likely helped speed his divorce to an early settlement.

Prenups Speed Divorce

Warp Speed

According to many reports, Shatner’s net worth is over $100 Million dollars from over two decades in acting. Distributing the actor’s fortune could have been a tremendous source of litigaton had there not been a prenuptial agreement.

However, court documents show the former couple had a prenuptial agreement in place, which allows the 88-year-old to keep his “Star Trek” royalties, the news outlet said. The actor was married to Martin for 18 years.

When reached by Fox News last month, Martin shared her brother had died around the time Shatner filed for the divorce and that she was with her family “during this time of grief.” “Respect distance from divorce topic while we grieve my brother respectfully,” she added. Representatives for Shatner did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are about more than just exploring the strange new world of marriage. A prenuptial agreement (or “prenup” for short) is a contract between people intending to marry. A prenup determines spousal rights when the marriage ends by death or divorce. This can be especially important for those who boldly go into fourth marriages.

If you divorce without a prenup, your property rights are determined under state law, and a spouse may have a claim to alimony while the suit for divorce is pending and after entry of a judgment. Many couples divorcing would prefer not to to explore the strange new worlds of family court.

That’s where prenups come in. Prospective spouses may limit or expand state laws by an agreement. Prenups are also used to protect the interests of children from a prior marriage, and to avoid a contested divorce.

As shown in Shatner’s case, prenups can also be the fastest way to resolve a future divorce . . . if they’re done right.

There are a galaxy of problems with prenuptial agreements too. If a prenuptial agreement includes any provisions that violate the law or public policy, it may automatically be deemed invalid.

Additionally, a prenuptial agreement cannot waive child support, and can’t set an amount for child support. Courts have plenary power over support issues, so child support amounts are determined by courts based on our child support guidelines.

Also, a premarital agreement may not be enforceable in a family court case, for instance, if it was not signed voluntarily; or if it was the product of fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching.

Flying Through the Divorce Nebula

In the Shatner divorce, he listed the couple’s separation date as February 1, 2019. He was previously married to Nerine Kidd, Marcy Lafferty and Gloria Rand. He shares two daughters, Lisabeth Shatner, 58, and Leslie Carol, 61, with Rand.

The actor shot to fame in the 1960s for his role as Captain James T. Kirk in the original series run of “Star Trek” and went on to have a lucrative film and TV career afterwards.

Shatner’s third marriage, to Kidd, ended in tragedy in 1999 when she died of accidental drowning in their swimming pool. Although the actor had filed for divorce after two years of marriage shortly before the incident, he explained in his 2018 book “Live Long and…What I Learned Along the Way” that he was nonetheless grief-stricken by the loss.

The Rise of Starfleet

Last week, President Trump unveiled the new logo for the United States Space Force, America’s newest branch of the military. Many are saying the logo looks suspiciously like the logo for the fictional Starfleet Command in the Star Trek entertainment universe.

Fellow Star Trek actor, George Takei, who played the character “Sulu” on the original series with Shatner, mocked the new logo for Space Force. After it was unveiled, Takei quickly tweeted:

‘Ahem. We are expecting some royalties from this..’

In his Washington Post opinion piece, Takei drew parallels between the Trump administration and a Star Trek episode called ‘Mirror, Mirror,’ where the USS Enterprise bridge crew find themselves in a parallel universe where ‘cruelty’ has replaced ‘diplomacy.’

The Fox News article is here.

 

A Phaser-Proof Prenuptial Agreement?

William Shatner, who is best known for starring as Enterprise captain James T. Kirk on the original Star Trek, has reached the final frontier of his marriage: he has filed for divorce from his wife of 18 years. News reports suggest the Captain and his First Mate previously entered into a prenuptial agreement. But will it be phaser-proof?

Phaserproof Prenup

Beam Me Up Scotty

Transmission of the news was received this week about the divorce filing, but some sources believe the divorce process had already been in the works for a while. Importantly TMZ noted that there was a prenup in place, the couple never had children together, and neither party is asking for spousal support. Observers are predicting a smooth divorce will be transported down to court fairly soon.

I was attracted by her beauty first of all, which was an old syndrome for me … and I think I lucked out because she had so many other qualities as well. Elizabeth has a great sense of humor and a great sense of adventure and she’s very nurturing. That combination of beauty, style, intelligence, humor and loving horses and dogs and children and loving her home and making a home for us, is quite a combination.

This marriage is not the Captain’s first voyage. Shatner’s wife, Elizabeth, 61, is his fourth, er sequel, in movie parlance.

Florida Prenups

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are about more than just exploring the strange new world of marriage. A prenuptial agreement (or “prenup” for short) is a contract between people intending to marry. A prenup determines spousal rights when the marriage ends by death or divorce. This can be especially important for those who boldly go into fourth marriages.

If you divorce without a prenup, your property rights are determined under state law, and a spouse may have a claim to alimony while the suit for divorce is pending and after entry of a judgment. Many couples divorcing would prefer not to to explore the strange new worlds of family court.

That’s where prenups come in. Prospective spouses may limit or expand state laws by an agreement. Prenups are also used to protect the interests of children from a prior marriage, and to avoid a contested divorce.

Prenups can be the best captain at the helm . . . if they’re done right.

There are a galaxy of problems with prenuptial agreements too. If a prenuptial agreement includes any provisions that violate the law or public policy, it may automatically be deemed invalid.

Additionally, a prenuptial agreement cannot waive child support, and can’t set an amount for child support. Courts have plenary power over support issues, so child support amounts are determined by courts based on our child support guidelines.

Also, a premarital agreement may not be enforceable in a family court case, for instance, if it was not signed voluntarily; or if it was the product of fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching.

Warp Speed Ahead

The Shatners are still negotiating the financial terms, a source told the site TMZ.

‘Per the terms of the prenup, neither party will receive any support from the other.

The Captain has had a colorful love life previously that resulted in four marriages and three daughters. Shatner and Elizabeth Shatner married in February 2001. He was previously married to Gloria Rand, Marcy Lafferty and Nerine Kidd, and has three daughters, Melanie, Leslie and Lisabeth, with Rand. Elizabeth Shatner was previously wed to Michael Glenn Martin.

Sources said Shatner and Elizabeth are expected to soon submit their divorce documents for a final signature from a judge.

The TMZ article is here.

 

Prenups and Threats to Call Off the Wedding

With the wedding season upon us, people are increasingly demanding prenuptial agreements. But many are also asking what is required to get out of the prenup they just signed. For instance, how valid would a Venezuelan prenup be if there were threats to call off the wedding unless it was signed? A Florida court just answered that question.

Prenup Threats

Venezuelan Prenups

In the recent case, the couple planned to marry in Venezuela. But six days before their wedding, the husband presented the wife a draft of a prenuptial agreement in Venezuela. At the time, the wife was four months pregnant with their second child.

The only financial disclosures contained within the document were perfunctory references to the husband’s ownership of certain nominal non-convertible bearer shares with corresponding assigned nominal values.

Interestingly, the agreement did not provide for equitable distribution or alimony. The husband allowed the wife to peruse the document and then assured her that he would furnish full financial disclosures prior to the wedding.

But the day before the wedding, having not yet provided any financial documentation, the husband threatened to cancel the ceremony if the wife did not sign it.

The wife reluctantly signed the prenup and they got married. However, their marriage did not endure. Less than six years later, the husband filed dissolution proceedings in Miami.

The wife tried to invalidate the prenuptial agreement, contending it was the product of “duress, coercion, or overreaching,” and was unconscionable, as it had been executed in the absence of full and fair financial disclosure.

Following an evidentiary hearing, convened to determine the circumstances surrounding the execution of the agreement, the court entered an order. The following week, the parties were due to appear at the United States Embassy in Venezuela with their marriage certificate, in order to establish expatriation eligibility.

Several years later, the husband retained another attorney and sought to have the wife execute a postnuptial agreement, showing he believed the prenuptial agreement was unenforceable under Venezuelan law.

Even though the prenup was entered into by the parties in Venezuela, and Venezuelan law should govern its validity, both parties urged the application of Florida law.

The Florida trial court found the prenuptial agreement had been executed under duress and in the absence of both full financial disclosure and waiver of said disclosure. The husband appealed.

Florida Avoiding Prenups

I have written about prenuptial agreements in Florida before, especially avoiding them. Because of Florida’s policy of enforcing agreements, prenups and postnups can be difficult to void – but not impossible. Florida has both case law and a statute to help lawyers, judges and the parties determine if a prenuptial agreement, for example, is enforceable.

In Florida, to test the validity of a prenuptial agreement, courts must consider things such as fraud, duress, coercion, in addition to the unfairness of the agreement, and whether there was any financial disclosure.

Under Florida’s Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, a prenup may not be enforceable if a party can prove, in part, that it was not signed voluntarily; or was the product of fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching; or it was unconscionable.

Some of these defenses may also require a party to show they were not given a fair and reasonable disclosure of property, and did not voluntarily and expressly waive that right, and did not have adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party.

“No Agreement, No Wedding!”

In Florida, a premarital agreement is not enforceable if the party against whom enforcement is sought proves that the agreement was the product of fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching.

But what is “duress”? Often, duress is defined as a condition of mind produced by an improper external pressure or influence that practically destroys your free agency and causes you to make a contract not of your own volition.

Proving duress is difficult, and requires showing the prenup was not free choice or will and this condition of mind was caused by some improper and coercive conduct of the opposite side.

In the Venezuelan case, the testimony established that the husband initially presented his pregnant wife with the disputed prenup six days before the wedding. At that time, the wife asked for evidence regarding his net worth. The husband assured the wife such evidence would be forthcoming.

But instead of honoring his pledge, the day before the wedding, the husband demanded she sign the prenup, with the added ultimatum of “no agreement, no wedding.”

However, it is not unusual for people to give an ultimatum that they will not marry their spouse without a prenuptial agreement. Ordinarily, the “no agreement no marriage” ultimatum does not constitute duress because there is nothing improper about taking such a position.

In the recent case though, the Husband also threatened life-altering consequences, by imperiling their shared, long-term plan to begin life anew with their children in the United States. The court found that these circumstances, which were unrebutted by the husband, were sufficient to support a finding of duress.

The opinion is available here.

 

Millennials: The New Prenup Crowd

As the New York Times reports, these days, millennials are being credited with the recent spike in prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements. With the wedding season in full swing, the rise of a new prenup crowd could mean the downfall of the stigma typically associated with them.

New Prenup Crowd

AAML Statistics

According to a study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 62% of attorneys surveyed saw an uptick in requests for prenuptial agreements, with 51% citing an increase in millennials asking for the protection.

One likely reason: The Generation Y crowd is marrying later than previous generations, with years to build up assets and debt on their own. The term Millennials refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and 1990s. The Millennial Generation is also known as Generation Y, because it comes after Generation X — those people between the early 1960s and the 1980s.

That new approach of Millennials accounts for the changing role of women in the work force, too. In 1980, just 13 percent of women who lived with a male partner earned at least half the couple’s income — today, that number has nearly tripled.

So, while prenups traditionally protected the party with money — which often was the man, and which often led to resentment — millennials usually tackle the agreements as a team.

Florida Prenups

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. A prenuptial agreement (or “prenup” for short) is a contract between people intending to marry. A prenup determines spousal rights when the marriage ends by death or divorce. This can be especially important in second marriages.

If you divorce without a prenup, your property rights are determined under state law, and a spouse may have a claim to alimony while the suit for divorce is pending and after entry of a judgment.

That’s where prenups come in. Prospective spouses may limit or expand state laws by an agreement. Prenups are also used to protect the interests of children from a prior marriage, and to avoid a contested divorce. Prenups can be a reliable guide down rough rivers if they’re done right.

Millennial Prenups

Another factor in the rise of the new prenup crowd could be practicality, as more than one-third of millennials grew up with single or divorced parents. Though it’s easy to think of a prenuptial agreement as a “divorce contract,” many legal and financial experts view it as a smart business move.

“It’s such a good idea to go into the marriage understanding that — while it’s first

Several reasons you may want a prenup include:

  • Own property or a business
  • Have children from a previous relationship, or have been married before
  • Plan to take time off to raise children
  • Hold significant debt
  • Have robust retirement accounts
  • Will receive stock options during your marriage
  • Feel that a prenup might be a good fit for you? Here’s how to get started.
  • Talk to your partner, sooner rather than later. By starting early, you’ll allow time for multiple discussions — and prevent your fiancé from feeling forced or rushed into something he or she doesn’t understand or agree with.

When you hire a lawyer to complete your prenup, he or she will request all your financials — bank and investment accounts, tax returns, insurance policies, debts — so it’s wise to start compiling that information now.

And, though it might seem like a headache, getting a clear picture of your finances is always a good idea — especially before you merge your life with someone else’s. One thing you must omit: issues of custody or support for future children, as those decisions are made in the best interest of the child at the time.

Ready to make it official? You and your betrothed will each need to hire a lawyer. Depending on the level of complexity and negotiation, legal representation for a prenuptial agreement can cost $2,500 and up.

As long as you work with your fiancé in a team, a prenup can bring you closer together — rather than further apart.

The New York Times article is here.

 

Can a Prenup Protect De Niro’s Dinero

Robert De Niro’s estranged wife, Grace Hightower, is demanding half of the actor’s half-billion dollar fortune, despite signing a prenuptial agreement in 2004. Feeling the ‘Heat’, De Niro is wondering whether his prenup is valid and will survive court scrutiny.

Void Prenup

Analyze This

According to the New York Daily News, details about the Hollywood star’s finances emerged during a hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court that revealed the two are battling over how to interpret a 2004 pre-nuptial agreement signed after a previous divorce.

De Niro attorney Krauss-Browne said that under the terms of the pre-nup Hightower was entitled to a $6 million apartment, $500,000 cash, $1 million each year and half the value of their marital residence.

“Nope, I’m entitled to 50%.”

Hightower, 64, is arguing she is entitled to much more — and that De Niro, 75, has kept her in the dark about their money since 2008. She believes she is entitled to a cut of 38 movies and 35 new business ventures since 2004 that involved the Oscar-winning actor.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are about more than just resolving the ‘Casino’ like uncertainty in a marriage.

A prenuptial agreement (or “prenup” for short) is a contract between people intending to marry. A prenup determines spousal rights when the marriage ends by death or divorce. This can be especially important in second marriages.

If you divorce without a prenup, your property rights are determined under state law, and a spouse may have a claim to alimony while the suit for divorce is pending and after entry of a judgment.

That’s where prenups come in. Prospective spouses may limit or expand state laws by an agreement. Prenups are also used to protect the interests of children from a prior marriage, and to avoid a contested divorce. Prenups can be a reliable guide down rough rivers if they’re done right.

Great Expectations

Hightower attorney Allan Mantel put the couple’s revenue since their prenup at $300 million — $250 million of which came from movies. He estimated that De Niro’s net worth was $500 million.

In addition to De Niro’s work in Hollywood, much of their earnings came from his ownership of the Nobu chain of restaurants and Greenwich Hotel.

Hightower’s frustration that she was not considered an equal led to their previous divorce in 1999, Mantel said.

“That’s what caused the first divorce — we want a partnership. She enhances his goodwill. She enhances his career. I agree you’re going to be my 50% partner’ — it’s in the agreement.”

Hightower says that part of the deal is void due to De Niro’s alleged shady accounting practices. The judge then joked:

His income will fall now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is out of the picture — less ‘Saturday Night Live,’” the judge remarked, referencing De Niro’s appearances on the sketch show.”

De Niro sat stone-faced.

The judge made a more serious observation as the hearing concluded.

After the hearing, De Niro, as is his custom, held a newspaper over, his face and became aggravated while struggling to find his driver waiting for him outside the courthouse.

Meet the Parents

De Niro filed for divorce from Hightower in December. They are also battling over custody of their 7-year-old daughter, who they had through a surrogate. They also have a 21-year-old son.

The New York Daily News article is here.

*Photo courtesy Georges Baird