Going through a divorce is difficult on many levels. Your client may feel like his or her personal life is laid bare for everyone to see. As an attorney, you can’t protect your client from the emotional exposure involved in divorce, but you can take measures to protect your client’s financial laundry from being publicly aired.
The rumor that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes signed a five-year marriage contract prompted a New York Time’s article on the idea of 20-year renewable marriage contracts as a way of overhauling marriage in our society. The idea of short-term, renewable marriage contracts can be appealing, but would such agreements be enforceable under California law? The hitch may be in California law’s abhorrence of anything that promotes divorce.
A “Divorce Hotel” may be coming soon to a luxury hotel near you! As the New York Times explains, “Check in on Friday, married. Then, with the help of mediators and independent lawyers, check out on Sunday, divorce papers in hand, all for a flat fee.” Not surprisingly, this concept may have the makings of a reality show too.
With the recent nuptials of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, there has been speculation as to whether the billionaire Facebook CEO had Ms. Chan sign a premarital agreement. We may never know the answer to that question — at least not if the marriage is a successful one — but we do know that premarital agreements are recognized under California law. But that doesn’t mean you can agree to anything in a premarital agreement; there are some things that you just can’t sign away.
After a divorce, both parties want to continue to live in the style to which they have become accustomed. And California law supports this desire by requiring courts to base spousal support awards on the standard of living established during the marriage. Fam C §4330(a). Ah, but the rub can be in determining what exactly was the marital standard of living.
One of the most contentious issues in a divorce case is the date of separation, because that date has potentially huge financial ramifications. Makes me wonder whether that was the impetus behind singer Ben Harper’s recent change to the separation date in his divorce petition against actress Laura Dern. Given its significance, attorneys and parties need to give careful thought when setting the separation date.
In the high-profile divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt, the ownership of the Dodgers hangs in the balance. Frank put his faith in a marital property agreement that he believed would result in him keeping the team. After a judge’s ruling that the agreement was not valid and enforceable, it’s as if there was never any such agreement and the parties are like any other in California trying to characterize particular property in a divorce. This leaves questions about how this marital agreement failed and how attorneys can avoid their clients’ agreements suffering the same fate.