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A prenup scrawled on a napkin may not hold up in court

If you are planning to wed the love your life, you have likely discussed various issues, such as finances, future family size, career, religion and other topics. In fact, like most Washington couples, you have probably spent hours sharing your thoughts and hopes and dreams with your intended spouse. You and your significant other may agree that signing a prenuptial agreement is in both of your best interests; however, it is always a good idea to research the legal aspects involved with such contracts before signing anything.

When people fail to clarify the laws of their state and choose instead to take matters into their own hands, things don't always turn out the way they hoped they would. For instance, in the late 1980s, film production icon Steven Spielberg and his then wife, Amy Irving, decided to divorce. Problems arose when they expected the judge overseeing their case to enforce a prenuptial agreement they had previously scrawled on a napkin. The judge refused, and Irving walked away with $100 million after four years of marriage.

Take note of other expensive divorces before filing

Especially if you will be involved in a high-net worth divorce, you simply can't be too cautious or thorough as you navigate proceedings. It is always a good idea to explore any and all options available, for instance, keeping costs as low as possible. Otherwise, you might wind up facing similar financial issues as the following celebrities did when they divorced: 

  • After 25 years of marriage, singer/song writer Neil Diamond said his ex-wife got enough of his estate that she could live on it for the rest of her life.
  • When Sheila Crump divorced her husband with whom she had amassed a fortune during 33 years of marriage as owners of Black Entertainment Television, she reportedly got $400 million at settlement; she also then married the judge that oversaw the case. 
  • Another marriage that lasted more than 30 years was that of Rupert Murdoch and Anna Torv. His former wife later said the affair he refused to end with another woman was the main factor that led to their divorce, which she settled for $1.7 billion.

These celebrity divorces prove that even marriages that have lasted decades may be at risk for divorce. Also, no matter how long a couple has been married, infidelity can be the turning point that causes irreparable damage in a relationship. It would be interesting to ask these or other celebrities what they might do differently, financially speaking, if they could re-negotiate their divorces.

The importance of experienced legal support

While it is possible to write terms of your own prenuptial agreement or even to negotiate your own divorce, it is easier to protect high-net worth assets if you seek support from an experienced family law attorney before signing a pre-nup or postnuptial contract or before filing for divorce. 

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