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Margie: R&B superstar Mary J. Blige wishes she had no more drama, but a recent split with her husband/manager, Martin “Kendu” Isaacs, is getting pretty ugly as the couple tries to reach a settlement. Jonathan Marks with the Marks Law Firm here this morning to talk about what they learned from perhaps their divorce, the prenup they had signed, maybe what they could have done better, and good morning to you.
Jonathan: Good morning, Margie.
Margie: Yeah, so, they did have a prenup in place.
Jonathan: They did. They signed a prenuptial agreement prior to the marriage, but at the time, they decided to now get a divorce, all the problems are being raised by Mr. Isaacs for purposes of why he believes that the prenuptial agreement should not be enforced.
Margie: Okay, what are some of those reasons that he’s giving?
Jonathan: Well, his first reason is that it was signed just, you know, a very short time prior to the marriage. In fact, a couple of days prior to the marriage, he was handed the agreement, and as a result of it, he didn’t have enough time to meet with an attorney and figure out whether or not there was a full disclosure of all the assets and debts. And then, try to make a legal determination as to whether or not entering in to the agreement was in his best interest.
The other problem that he had, unfortunately for him is, he entered in to a prenuptial agreement and never hired an attorney to assist him. So, as a result of it, all these decisions were being made on his own without actually having enough legal knowledge to be able to make such a determination.
Margie: So in the prenup, does it discuss the property for the couple?
Jonathan: Well, most prenuptial agreements, or the basis of it, is to discuss either…you know, two specific things. One is to set aside the specific property and debts that exist at the time of the marriage, and then set forth what somebody’s rights are gonna be going forward, with not just the property they bring in to the marriage, but also possibly the property that they’re gonna earn during the marriage.
And along with it, they’re also gonna set forth, possibly, some terms in regard to spousal support, what we in Missouri would call a maintenance clause, as to whether or not somebody should either receive maintenance, have a contractural sum, or some lump sum that would be paid to them for purposes of getting a divorce down the road at a certain number of years.
Margie: Yeah, they seem kinda far apart on spousal support with the judge issuing temporary spousal support, $30,000 a month is what he’s getting now.
Jonathan: He’s getting the mere sum of $30,000 a month, but he pled in his motion, what we would call a PDL motion, a motion for temporary maintenance, for $129,000 a month. And if you look through the motion itself, he’s stating that his rent out in Los Angeles is costing him a mere $70,000 per month.
Margie: A mere.
Jonathan: So, from his perspective, only getting $30,000 a month isn’t helping him pay the bills. What also is odd about his request is that he believed that she should also be contributing to his child support that he has with a prior relationship, and so, as a result of it, he also wanted her to contribute at least $5,000 a month to that spousal support obligation, or, excuse me, child support obligation, that he has to her.
Margie: So as this plays out, out west, how would something like this work in the Missouri court system?
Jonathan: So, if you were getting divorced, the prenup would come in to effect originally in your initial petition, and if someone was gonna challenge it, you’d file a motion with the court. And then a judge is gonna have to look at, you know, certain specific factors to determine. One we’ve already mentioned, which is how close in time was it for purposes of the signature?
Two, were there attorneys involved? It is very important here in Missouri that at least two attorneys be involved, one for each party for purposes of getting the proper legal representation. Then also, was there a full disclosure of all property and debt for purposes of what’s in the prenuptial agreement itself? And then last is, did they participate in negotiation of the agreement? Because that’s a big factor.
If you understood enough to be able to negotiate, then obviously you have…a judge has a better understanding to know that the parties knew what they were entering in to for that contract.
Margie: Can you actually cut off spousal support, or maintenance, in a prenup?
Jonathan: So, yes you can contractually put it in to there, but the reality is, from a judge’s perspective, it’s very difficult. They’re gonna look at it as that you entered in to a contract, and whether or not you knew what you were entering in to at that time. But the court could also find that particular clause to be unconscionable because how could one predict what their circumstances are gonna be, however many years down the road?
So, for example, you may have been employed, you may have been healthy, and everything was fine at the time you entered in to the contract. But 15 years later, you could be ill, you could be unable to work, and as a result of it, a court would have to find that clause unconscionable because there was no way for you to predict what your circumstance was gonna be that far down the road.
Margie: There’s a lot of things to consider with the prenup, isn’t there?
Jonathan: Absolutely, and you just need to make sure that when you’re entering in to that contract, you take the severity of that contract in to consideration. You take plenty of time before you enter in to the contract, and have a nice gap of time before you enter in to your marriage, so that these things can be negotiated out, and you’re making a sound decision.
Margie: All right, Family Law Attorney Jonathan Marks, thank you, we appreciate it.
Jonathan: Thank you.
Margie: For more information on the Marks Law Firm, head to the “STL Moms” tab.