Tag: Getting Around a Prenup

Enforcing an Islamic Mahr Prenuptial Agreement

The extent of a court enforcing a religious prenuptial agreement, like the Islamic Mahr agreement, is big news. A family judge in Florida recently ruled that an Islamic Mahr agreement was not only enforceable, but waived equitable distribution and temporary support. How did an appellate court view the ruling?

Mahr Prenuptial Agreement

The Mahr from Thar

For many religious couples, in lieu of a secular prenuptial agreement, they sign a religious contract. Catholics have prenuptial agreements and Jews have a ketubah. In this recent Florida divorce, the parties signed an Islamic premarital agreement called a “Mahr” or “Mehr” agreement.

Although the agreement was entered in Bangladesh, neither party claimed it should be interpreted under Bangladeshi or Sharia law.

A Mahr is a contract to pay money – frequently expressed in gold coins – promised by a groom to his bride in the event of death or divorce. The amount is agreed to before the marriage and negotiated between the parents of the couple.

This Mahr agreement was two pages long, and had the explicit promise by Former Husband to pay Former Wife a total of 15 Bangladeshi lac Taka upon marriage. Five lac Taka were to be paid up front on marriage, and ten more in the event of a divorce.

At the time of the trial, 10 lac Taka was worth about $12,000. The Bangladeshi Taka has not been appreciating against the dollar lately.

At trial, the Former Wife argued that the ten lac Taka Mahr agreement was only the minimum amount she could ask the Former Husband for. In the Former Wife’s view, the Mehr did not waive her right to equitable distribution and temporary alimony.

The Former Husband, on the other hand, argued that the ten lac Taka under the Mahr agreement was the maximum she could get. The purpose of the Mahr was to guarantee an agreed sum to her. By agreeing to a guaranteed payment in advance, she waived her rights to ask for anything else.

The family law judge found that the Former Wife had built up some equity in the jointly titled, marital home, but then awarded it to the Former Husband. Then the court ordered Former Wife to vacate the house.

Relying on the Mahr agreement, the judge also denied Former Wife temporary alimony, limiting her to the ten lac Taka lump sum.

The Former Wife appealed.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about religious prenuptial agreements, such as the Mahr, before. Prenuptial agreements are not just for celebrities. Anyone who brings personal or business assets into their marriage can benefit from a prenuptial agreement.

Prenups are also important to have in place before a couple starts investing in businesses, buying properties, and accumulating mountains of debt.

But just having a prenup is not enough. 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.

Florida also adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. The UPAA requires that all premarital agreements be in writing and signed by both parties. It is enforceable without consideration other than the marriage itself.

Because prenuptial agreements may be challenged in court, 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.

Florida the Sunshine Religious State?

Many people don’t realize that religious agreements can be enforceable in Florida. However, there is a limitation, only a religious agreement’s secular terms are enforceable as a contractual obligation. That is true even if the secular terms were agreed to in a religious ceremony.

Here, the parties disputed how the terms of the Mahr agreement should be interpreted. Former Husband argued the Mahr agreement was meant to protect a spouse in the event of a divorce, so the Mahr should be read as the entirety of Former Wife’s recovery.

Former Wife argued the lack of waiver language in the Mahr agreement –stating that the couple intended to waive equitable distribution and alimony – meant she was entitled to ask a Florida court for relief in addition to the Mahr.

The appellate court reversed, holding that parties to a prenuptial agreement — religious or secular — are allowed to contract away their traditional marital rights, but they must do so in a way that comports with Florida law.

To contract away marital rights, a prenuptial agreement’s plain language must unambiguously express a desire to waive equitable distribution. Additionally, any agreement that waives or limits the right to temporary support and attorney’s fees violates Florida public policy.

Because the Mahr did not expressly bar Former Wife from seeking a property division and alimony, it couldn’t overcome Florida’s strong public policy in favor of equitable distribution and temporary alimony.

The opinion is here.

 

Cheap Online Prenups

A segment aired on the ABC television show Shark Tank about a company selling cheap online prenups. There is no question a contract can be done cheaply online – especially when no lawyers are involved.  But lawyers  hired to create, or challenge, or defend real world prenuptial agreements can tell you if the cheap, online prenups are worth it.

Cheap Prenup

“He who represents himself, has a fool for a client”

No one likes to read the fine print on websites they visit. But, maybe you’re the kind of person who is comfortable getting a medical diagnosis from WebMD! Even if you are, you may want to avoid unpleasant surprises and look through the website’s “Terms of Use” (the agreement every user must agree to and abide by in order to use a website or service).

Websites may advertise that their online legal services and prenuptial agreements are prepared by “family lawyers.” However, if you look at the website’s Terms of Use, they may likely reveal that the prenups they are selling you – which will govern years of alimony payments, the division of all your property, tax consequences, and your life after marriage – were created without any “legal advice.” Or my personal favorite: no law was considered about your situation when drafting your prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial agreements are important documents. So, if you don’t care that your cheap, online prenup did not take into consideration any law, let alone any changes in the law, or that any of the information is current, a cheap online prenup may fit nicely next to your online medical diagnosis.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are not just for tech billionaires, celebrity actors and rock stars. Prenups are about much more than just resolving who gets that expensive Montana ranch acquired during a marriage.

Any couple who brings any personal or business assets (or debts) into their marriage can benefit from a prenuptial agreement. They are important to have in place before a couple starts investing in businesses, buying properties, and accumulating mountains of debt.

But just having a prenup is not sufficient. That’s because 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.

Florida adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. The UPAA 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.

Because prenuptial agreements may be challenged in court, 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.

Good, Cheap, or Fast? Choose Two

Prenuptial agreements are very technical and one size does not fit all. They are particularly important to protect your future income, children from another marriage, potential inheritances, businesses and your business partners, other assets, and your sources of income.

The last thing that you want to do is wonder if you are protected by a cheap, online prenup; one which may not be enforceable on its face. As mentioned above, Florida adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. The UPAA is Florida’s recognition that there is not always uniformity in how prenups are enforced, challenged and defended.

There are many nuances in the law of prenups which can differ from state to state. For instance, some provisions in a prenup which are available in one state – such as the ability to waive temporary alimony – may not be available in another state. There may also be differences between states about the sufficiency of the financial disclosures required.

There are also questions about privilege and confidentiality. In Florida, communications with your attorney are generally privileged. This means that communications between a client and their lawyer can be confidential. This can also mean that, absent some exception or waiver, neither an attorney or a client can be compelled to divulge confidential communications made during the rendition of legal services.

What do online, cheap prenup websites offer? As the websites plainly tell you, they are not your law firm. So, communications between you and the website are probably not privileged communications under the attorney-client privilege or work product doctrine.

This could result in your communications not being protected. And if your prenup gets challenged in court, you may be in the uncomfortable position of watching someone you thought was your lawyer testify against you.

One cheap, online prenup website said it best:

“Any Legal Information provided is not a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney licensed to practice in an appropriate jurisdiction.”

The JDSupra article is here.

 

Prenuptial Agreements and Waiving Alimony

Actor Robert De Niro is wondering why he signed a prenuptial agreement since it doesn’t seem to be waiving alimony very well. De Niro’s lawyer is claiming the actor is being worked to death to keep up with his estranged wife’s extravagant lifestyle — including her “thirst for Stella McCartney” and $1 million-plus diamond rings.

Prenup Alimony

Aging Bull

According to De Niro’s lawyer during a virtual court divorce hearing:

“Mr. De Niro is 77 years old, and while he loves his craft, he should not be forced to work at this prodigious pace because he has to/ When does he get the opportunity to not take every project that comes along and not work six-day weeks, 12-hour days so he can keep pace with Ms. Hightower’s thirst for Stella McCartney?”

He could get sick tomorrow, and the party’s over,” she said of the famed “Raging Bull” and “The Irishman” star. De Niro phoned into the proceeding, while Hightower appeared by video link.

She also claims De Niro is already a tax delinquent again — with the paychecks from his next two movies to offset his latest multimillion-dollar bill to Uncle Sam, his divorce lawyer claimed.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements and the De Niro divorce 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.

And as Robert De Niro is figuring out, even though a prenuptial agreement can waive alimony, temporary support during the divorce proceedings, and child support, may not be waivable in a prenuptial agreement. Florida courts have, recognized that, notwithstanding language in the prenuptial agreement to the contrary, spouses are still entitled to temporary support. In Florida, it is against the public policy to enforce any provisions waiving temporary support.

The War With Grandpa

The recent New York hearing came as the couple squabbles over how much temporary support De Niro should have to pay to Hightower until the divorce is finalized.

Hightower’s lawyer, Kevin McDonough, argued that since filing for divorce in 2018, De Niro has unfairly continued to cut the amount of money he has been sending his estranged spouse, including involving her credit-card expenses, going from $375,000 a month to just $100,000 monthly as recently as January.

But Krauss claimed that in the years leading up to their separation, Hightower was spending more and more. In just 2019, she had spent $1.67 million — including buying a diamond worth $1.2 million from jeweler Kwiat, the lawyer said.

Krauss said De Niro is behind millions of dollars on his taxes and that the money from his next two movie projects will go toward paying off those liabilities. De Niro — who was clobbered with a $6.4 million tax lien in 2015 — has previously said the pandemic decimated his finances.

“If he wants to direct or compel his family to leave their longtime home while he’s spending millions and millions and millions on himself, on his own homes, on renovating what his lawyers tongue-in-cheek call his cottage in Montauk, which he has poured millions and millions into over the past couple of years, he can take that position,” McDonough claimed of the actor.

“There have been no cutbacks and no slowdowns in Mr. De Niro’s lifestyle whatsoever,” McDonough said. Until the prenuptial agreement goes into effect, De Niro is supposed to pay her so she can “maintain the status quo” lifestyle she had when they were married — while also crying foul on Krauss’ claims that De Niro is struggling financially.

The Fox news article is here.

Prenups for Millennials

Millennials are often known to buck convention, and that may be true with prenups. While prenups have been most common among celebrities, the rich, and couples entering second and third marriages, more young people are requesting them.

Millennial Prenups

Closing Time

The term Millennials generally refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and 1990s, and as the Wall Street Journal reports, younger adults of all income levels are drafting prenups.

Millennials are not only trying to protect assets accumulated before and during marriage but to address societal realities that weren’t necessarily present or common years ago, such as a desire to keep finances separate, student debt, social-media use, embryo ownership and even pet care.

Experts point to the fact that many millennials are children of divorced parents and have had an intimate look at what can happen financially when a marriage dissolves. At the same time, the stigma or taboo that used to be associated with discussing money before marriage is slowly disappearing.

Some millennial couples who want to maintain a clear separation of their finances during marriage are using prenups as a workaround for state laws that would otherwise treat certain assets as marital property.

This mind-set change is even true for clients who don’t have significant assets to protect going into the marriage, lawyers say. Some millennials want to keep their finances—current and future—separate and businesslike, which would allow them to leave a marriage, if necessary, without many strings attached.

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.

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.

All the Small Things

As the Wall Street Journal article further explains, for young couples who haven’t been married before and don’t have children, prenups need to anticipate all sorts of questions related to potential alimony payments, such as: Will one of you stay home with children or do you both plan to continue working? What might each of your potential incomes be? Will you need job training?

Many younger professionals might think to waive alimony completely, especially if they both have their own careers and lead separate financial lives. However, if there is a chance that one spouse could be out of the workforce for a considerable time, beyond a standard maternity or paternity leave, to raise children, it could impact future employability and earning capacity.

Many millennials are also going into a marriage with significant student and credit-card debt, which also is a change from the past. A recent Fidelity Investments report, for example, found that millennials in 2020 had an average loan balance of $52,000.

As a result, handling debt issues are making their way into prenuptial agreements. One couple, where a wife-to-be had $75,000 in student-loan and credit-card debt, the couple added a provision to their prenup that said any marital assets used to pay off her debt had to be reimbursed in the event of the divorce.

Another couple used a prenup to address how any future student debt taken on during the marriage would be handled. They agreed that this type of debt would be considered the borrowing party’s personal debt, not a marital debt.

As more couples decide to delay having children until later in life, more prenuptial agreements are including directions for dealing with genetic material in the event of divorce. In a prenuptial agreement, a couple can agree that in the event of a divorce, their embryos would be donated to stem-cell research through a local stem-cell bank. Neither party could use the embryos without the consent of the other party.

Pet provisions also are becoming more commonplace in today’s prenups by people who view their pets as their de facto families. A prenup can be crafted with a visitation schedule, a plan to split vet bills and pet insurance costs and address what would happen if one of the partners moved far away from the other.

Some millennials want to address social media in prenups to ensure that one spouse can’t write nasty things about the other in the event they break up. However, it is easy to run into First Amendment issues.

The Wall Street Journal 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.

 

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.