Defensive Marriage Acts

Attention, golddiggers: Supreme Court rulings on prenups.

Attention trophy-spouse seekers and golddiggers: The state Supreme Court would like to remind you that unfair prenups are prohibited—unless they've been negotiated fairly. In a decision issued last week, the court agreed that Gloria Bernard could nullify the prenup she'd signed with a Seattle-area real-estate developer who builds industrial and business parks in the exurbs. Thomas Bernard went into the marriage with a net worth of $25 million, while his employee, Gloria, had $8,000. According to the court, Thomas provided Gloria with a last-minute prenup and said he wouldn't marry her if she didn't sign. Her lawyer told her not to do it, but she signed anyway, and she and Thomas got married at the Seattle Tennis Club, agreeing to renegotiate parts of the agreement later. Washington is a community-property state, meaning anything you earn during a marriage can potentially become the property of your spouse as well. But after his wife filed for divorce, Bernard argued that the five-year marriage hadn't lasted long enough for him to accumulate any community property. The court disagreed, saying he made money simply by keeping his mind on it (and vice versa): "Thomas's substantial labor in managing his separate assets produced revenue that is considered community property." In addition, the court determined that the prenup—which barred Gloria from receiving any inheritance and from being reimbursed for her contributions to his earnings—was unfair. An unfair prenup is still valid so long as both parties signed in good faith. But the court found that Thomas hadn't given her enough time to consider the contract, and that the subsequent renegotiations were too limited to make up for that. A Superior Court judge will decide how much of the couple's money Gloria gets to keep. She'll also be paid back for lawyers' fees and court costs.

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