Many Texas residents may have read that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are divorcing after more than 10 years of marriage. From a family law perspective, one of the more intriguing aspects of their divorce is the timing of when Ms. Garner’s petition was filed. Ms. Garner filed her petition seeking divorce 10 years and one day from their marriage date.
There are a few reasons why the timing is important. Under California law, reaching the 10-year anniversary is important as doing so makes the lower-earning spouse eligible for more spousal support and for a longer duration than if the marriage ends prior to 10 years. Another factor may be if the couple has a prenuptial agreement in place, as many wealthy couples do. In many such agreements, settlements are greater when people reach certain milestones, and some have settlements payable per year of marriage from the higher-earning to the lower-earning spouse.
Done correctly, prenuptial agreements can provide important protections in the event a marriage ends. If they include prohibited provisions, such as agreements regarding future child custody or child support, they may be ignored by the court. Similarly, obtaining the signature of one party under duress may also cause the agreement to be invalidated. If that happens, the court will conduct the property division according to the laws of the state while disregarding the agreement.
While some people may find the idea of a prenuptial agreement to be distasteful, viewing such an agreement as a plan for ending a marriage, they can actually be a very savvy thing to do. Planning carefully for all potentialities may be very wise, and there is nothing wrong with taking steps to protect one’s financial interests. Those who are considering one may want to obtain separate legal representation to avoid any future conflict of interest claims.