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Should you play 'Minnesota nice' in a high-asset divorce?

By the time a couple has decided to end a marriage, there may be a number of negative feelings and emotions in play. People can be hurt, angry, jealous, bitter or resentful during the divorce process, and these feelings no doubt have an effect on how quickly and peacefully a marriage is dissolved. It can certainly be difficult to get through this upsetting time, but there are some cases in which playing nice can benefit each spouse.

Too often, we read about ugly divorces tainted and drawn out by spouses who have no desire to make a divorce easy. This can make it seem like all divorces have to involve lengthy courtroom battles and months or years without resolution. However, there are also plenty of examples of divorces that are filed and finalized with little drama or fanfare. For many Minnesota couples considering a divorce, this is the more preferable route.

Surprisingly, a recent example of an amicable divorce involves an extremely wealthy couple. Business mogul Rupert Murdoch is estimated to be worth more than $12 billion, which led many people to expect that his divorce from his wife of 14 years would involve a bitter battle over his billions. However, recent reports suggest that the couple has finalized a divorce settlement and has done so rather peacefully.

Instead of ignoring the fact that Murdoch entered the marriage with significantly more assets than his wife, the couple reportedly addressed the matter with a prenuptial agreement. They then updated the terms of the prenuptial agreement two times during their marriage with postnuptial agreements. Because they chose to take that route, their divorce could adhere closely with the wishes and expectations laid out in those documents.

This is a strong example of how it can be very helpful for couples to address the division of assets, including investments, properties and even debt, before they get to the point of ending a marriage. By doing so, a couple can make decisions at a time when they are more likely to come to peaceful and fair agreements rather than wait until a marriage has been irretrievably broken. It can also prevent one person from taking advantage of another person.

Of course not all divorces are this "nice," but there are certainly ways to pursue as peaceful and fair of a settlement as possible with the help of an attorney. 

Source: Bloomberg, "Rupert Murdoch, Wife Agree to Divorce Settlement in N.Y.," Chris Dolmetsch and Edmund Lee, Nov. 20, 2013

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