When couples separate, questions frequently arise about rights, responsibilities and the division of assets, including individual and joint assets. As many Los Angeles residents know, it can be even more difficult than usual to reach a final divorce settlement when significant sums of money are involved, especially if a couple has never discussed what would happen upon separation and do not a prenuptial agreement.
Congressman Jim McDermott is currently involved in a high asset divorce that involves a dispute over accurate disclosure of assets. The high-profile couple has been battling in the courts for several months during the lengthy divorce process that is scheduled for trial in late August. Although McDermott's wife is an attorney who signed a prenuptial agreement granting her 55 percent of the couple's joint assets, she now claims the agreement should be invalidated because McDermott allegedly did not accurately disclose the extent of his assets during the negotiation of the agreement, including state and federal retirement accounts. Both couples have faced significant legal costs related to this contested divorce.
Because these situations are not uncommon in Los Angeles and other cities, many legal professionals recommend prenuptial agreements for all couples, regardless of the amount of income or assets. Proper planning is important because no one can predict the future, and each person's financial security may be at stake in the event that the marriage ends. For couples with significant assets, however, such an agreement may be even more important. Post-nuptial agreements can also be negotiated after a couple is married and are generally recommended when one party's financial situation changes dramatically.
Although it may seem unromantic to discuss a marriage's dissolution and make an agreement concerning division of assets, these agreements can be valuable tools to minimize conflict, equitably divide marital property, and define the rights and responsibilities of both parties. Divorce is almost never easy, but some legal tools do exist to make the process easier and less acrimonious.
Source: The Seattle Times, "McDermott divorce goes to trial next week," Jim Brunner, Aug. 14, 2012