The celebrity divorce of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie after 25 years of marriage has generated thousands of news headlines as legal experts are weighing in on what might happen to their $137 billion fortune. This split will go down as one of the most expensive divorces in history.
Although most divorcing couples do not have nearly as much wealth at stake as the Bezos family, there still are some lessons to learn from their breakup.
Get a prenup!
Perhaps the most important takeaway is how valuable a prenuptial agreement can be in the event of divorce.
Most of the Bezos’ fortune was built during the course of their marriage. Since the couple lives in Washington, which is a community property state, most of their estate is subject to a 50-50 split.
Although more couples are requesting prenuptial agreements, they still are an underutilized tool that could save many divorcing spouses from a lot of headaches and heartbreak.
Unfortunately, prenups often are seen as a precursor to divorce and a detriment to marriage. After all, no one wants to even acknowledge the possibility of divorce when wedding bells are ringing.
But with approximately half of all marriages ending in divorce, you would be ignoring reality if you did not take steps to protect yourself from the worst-case scenario.
“It is important to understand that agreeing to a prenup is not planning on your marriage failing; it is providing a plan for how to deal with the property of the parties in the event the marriage does not last,” said Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joe Cordell. “It is only ever used in the event that the marriage fails, which could happen whether or not the prenup was signed.”
For Jeff Bezos, it was impossible to forecast the enormous fortune he would go on to build when he and MacKenzie first tied the knot. However, you do not have to be exorbitantly wealthy to benefit from a prenup. Generally, prenuptial agreements can cover:
- Property rights
- Rights for alimony or spousal support
- Rights for attorney fees
- Retirement accounts
- Each party’s finances
- Ownership rights in regards to life insurance or disability policies
It is important to get in touch with a men’s divorce attorney who can help you determine what to include in a prenuptial agreement and to ensure that it is in fact enforceable. This important step is possibly the best way to protect yourself from a nasty divorce.
Affairs can cost you
A potential confounding factor in Bezos’ divorce is that he started dating news anchor/actress Lauren Sanchez during the separation period from his wife. It is uncertain, but that relationship could give his wife MacKenzie more leverage.
In this day and age, judges are rarely concerned with who is to blame in the divorce since no-fault divorce is now the norm, but that relationship could spur MacKenzie to push for more in the divorce settlement than she might have otherwise.
In most cases, infidelity rarely affects the distribution of assets or child custody determinations, but it could impact alimony or spousal support depending on your state’s laws. A cheating spouse may lose their right to alimony if an affair can be proven, even with a no-fault divorce.
It pays to work things out
Although Amazon stakeholders are concerned about what this divorce could mean for the company, it is somewhat encouraging that the couple is at least reportedly parting on amicable terms.
In a tweet announcing the divorce, Bezos stated they are remaining “cherished friends.”
However, just because the divorce process begins on friendly terms is no guarantee it will remain that way. Cordell & Cordell Fairfax divorce attorney Aaron J. Weaver says he’s seen plenty of divorces start amicably before quickly deteriorating.
“What I’ve seen in my practice is it’s not uncommon for parties to start out in a collaborative way seeking settlement and at some point in time someone gets rubbed the wrong way in negotiations, pushes away from the table, and then sometimes mud starts getting slung,” Mr. Weaver said.
The unfortunate truth is that the family court system is set up in a way that breeds conflict. Society should do more to support amicable divorce as it is in the best interest of both parties involved and especially beneficial as the couple co-parents together if they have any children.