When Rupert Murdoch filed for divorce in New York from his third wife to whom he had been married for 14 years, it was bound to be a newsworthy event. The media titan has a net worth of approximately $11 billion according to CNBC.com and owns properties and has business interests all over the world. Recent news stories about the couple have referred to the couple’s prenuptial agreement, which gives his wife Wendi cash and property, but no control over any of Murdoch’s News Corp business. Another type of marital agreement has also been mentioned in reports about the two, namely, a postnuptial agreement. New York courts will enforce a postnuptial agreement when a couple goes through a divorceif it is drafted correctly and not the product of duress or bad faith.
What is a postnup?
A “postnup” is an agreement that two spouses sign during their marriage, as opposed to a “prenup” agreement which is executed prior to the wedding. Most states now recognize postnuptial agreements and, according to a Huffington Post article, their popularity has been on the rise over the past several years. The 2012 article cites a survey of lawyers who are members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers; over 50 percent of those surveyed reported an increase in postnuptial agreements in the past three years.
The postnup is basically a contract between the two partners in a marriage. The postnup can be used to resolve financial issues, determine who owns certain assets, negotiate probate matters or deal with many other potentially troublesome differences the parties wish to work out. Both parties are advised to retain their own attorney so that each spouse comes to the bargaining table with trusted counsel. If each party is represented by his or her own attorney, that may be a factor favoring the enforceability of the agreement, since it is less likely that a court would find one of the parties had an unfair advantage over the other during negotiations.
Some postnups are executed with an eye toward a future divorce. Others are drafted as a means for the couple to mediate. There are stories of couples who were nearing divorce based on their arguments over finances. According to cnn.com, when one husband and wife, who had gone to multiple marriage counselors seeking to work out their financial differences, learned about postnups, each one hired a lawyer and worked through their concerns, ending up with a concrete plan to which both parties agreed.
Still other postnups are executed as a way to protect couples from the unexpected or to simply remove financial questions or concerns from an otherwise healthy marriage—for example, a spouse that has problems with gambling or excessive shopping or otherwise handling finances. A postnup may specify that one spouse’s debts are not joint marital debts, thus potentially removing that issue as being a source of marital controversy.
Even if you are not considering how to divide your billions, your property is as important to you as the Murdochs’ assets are to them. If you are considering drafting a postnuptial agreement or contemplating a separation from your spouse, you may want to seek the advice of an experienced attorney. A family law attorney can help you protect your rights in a divorce and help you gain the peace of mind you need.