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Celebrity divorce offers lesson in prenuptial agreements

In early July, the famed Hollywood couple of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner announced that the pair would be splitting up and ending their marriage of 10 years. Most striking, is the couple's decision to wait until they had been married for precisely 10 years and one day before filing divorce papers. For the last several months tabloid media outlets have been reporting about the couple separation. Many speculated that Garner, 43, had initiated the separation from Affleck, 42, due to his penchant for gambling.

According to one California family law expert, the decision of when to file for divorce may not have been a coincidence. Under California law, a couple who has been married together for at least 10 years is presumed to be in a long-term marriage. This status can have significant repercussions with regards to alimony, also known as spousal support. Generally, the spouse earning the lesser amount of money in a long-term marriage can ask a court for more spousal support over a longer period of time than their counterparts that have only been married for a few years.

The reason why this is important with regards to prenuptial agreements is that many couples create those agreements with specific terms outlining divorce settlements. For example, before marriage, a couple might agree that whomever is the spouse with the greater income will pay out a divorce settlement to the other spouse at a set amount for each year of marriage. This can work as an incentive for couples to stay together longer, while also treating a lower-income spouse more fairly after a divorce.

There are a few things you should know if you are currently considering a California divorce involving a prenuptial agreement. An attorney experienced in California family law can assist you in defending against or supporting a prenuptial agreement made with your spouse. You should also know that a spouse hiding assets or concealing other wealth is one of the most common ways to invalidate a prenuptial agreement. Additionally, a hurried or "last minute" signing of a prenup may indicate that one party may have coerced the other party into signing the prenup as a condition to wed.

Source: Fortune, "What we can learn about prenups from the Ben Affleck-Jennifer Garner divorce," Laura J. Vogel, July 04, 2015

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