A high-asset divorce case involving the founder and Chairman of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Richard Stephenson, and his wife of 25 years was recently called “one of the longest, most contentious local divorces in recent memory.” Papers for the divorce were filed six years ago, but the couple was still successful in resolving their differences as of a couple weeks ago.
One of the issues in the divorce is a prenuptial agreement stating that all property each of them had prior to the marriage, as well as property obtained individually during the marriage, would remain separate property for purposes of property division in the event of divorce. It has to be determined whether, under the terms of the prenuptial agreement, Alicia Stephenson may be awarded a share of her former husband’s wealth.
According to Richard Stephenson’s attorney, the prenuptial agreement has been declared valid and simply needs to be enforced. In court documents, though, Alicia Stephenson has reportedly claimed substantial marital assets, including real estate, retirement accounts and securities.
The case highlights an issue that needs to be considered when drafting a prenuptial agreement. Prenuptial agreements, of course, may specify how property is to be divided in divorce by detailing how property is to be classified—whether as marital or separate. Prenuptial agreements may also specify how marital or separate property is to be defined, so that couples are clear on how to deal with property that wasn’t specifically addressed in the agreement. Couples may, of course, rely on the statutory definitions of these terms, but they may also come up with language that they feel will make it easier for them in the event of a dispute.
In a future post we’ll say a bit more about this issue and why it is important to work with an experienced family law attorney to address property division issues.