Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C. posted in Divorce on Tuesday, April 08, 2014.
The headlines are in. Billionaire Rupert Murdoch and his third wife of 14 years finalized their divorce. The terms are protected from public scrutiny.
We may never know what went on behind the scenes and on what terms their divorce was resolved. There will not likely be a continuing onslaught of scintillating news reports, indications of exorbitant legal fees and speculation about strategies and outcome appearing everywhere.
But we do know that the Murdoch’s had a prenuptial agreement and this more than likely had a great deal to do with arriving at a relatively swift divorce settlement without all of the speculation and publicity. A prenuptial agreement is a contract made before marriage to settle in advance the respective rights and liabilities of the husband and wife to property, maintenance and other financial issues in the event of a divorce, and may also settle the respective rights of one party in the event of the death of the other.
While a party’s request for such an agreement may result in an emotional response from his or her fiancé and potential conflict because the agreement contemplates the failure of the marriage before it begins, if the requesting party can convey that it is not a lack of love or trust that motivates the request, but a desire for financial order and continuity that will benefit both parties, a prenuptial agreement can, in fact, add to the solidarity of a marriage.
While the enforceability of a prenuptial agreement often gets publicity in divorces of wealthy individuals such as the Murdoch’s or Barry Bonds, these agreements are no longer the provinces of the rich and famous.
More and more couples are seeking a practical way to deal with their property and incomes in the advance of a possible divorce. The divorce process, which often becomes laden with emotion, can make objective and reasoned decisions difficult if not impossible. In addition, the perceived high cost of protracted divorce litigation creates an air of pragmatism when it comes to the bonds of matrimony. While being wealthy like Mr. Murdoch likely makes the cost of litigation and even settlement less painful than what it would be for most of us, a prenuptial agreement may still be worth every penny for most of us.
Nevertheless, a prenuptial agreement cannot be viewed as an insurance policy against subsequent litigation or successful claims against property and income. Rather, it should be viewed as a preventive measure. A spouse who is eager to marry may enter into a contract that becomes less palatable over time, as circumstances change, the marriage sours or a wealthy spouse dies. As a result, challenges to the validity and enforceability of prenuptial agreements frequently occur.
Yet, while no lawyer can give you an ironclad guarantee that a prenuptial agreement will be enforced, when negotiated and drafted properly by an attorney experienced with these agreements, a properly drafted agreement may be end up being money well spent. It may prevent a protracted divorce that culminates in a public airing of dirty laundry, and the unanticipated award of maintenance, attorneys’ fees and especially an unfair valuation and division of valuable family, business and other personal assets.
The attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal have considerable experience in negotiating, drafting and even litigating these pre-marital contracts.