Supermodel, Project Runway host, and entrepreneur Heidi Klum has accumulated a fortune worth an estimated $70 million. But is her soon-to-be ex-husband Seal entitled to any of it?
Looking over the divorce documents filed by Klum on April 6, the answer at first appears to be no. In places in the filings asking for listings of the couple’s joint community property and assets, Klum’s lawyer indicates there are none due to the presence a post-nuptial agreement. Also known as a mid-marriage agreement, a “post-nup” can provide for partial or total asset protection in the event a couple ever decides to divorce. Created only after a marriage begins, post-nuptial agreements can be put in place for a number of reasons, but a change in income or wealth on the part of one spouse is a typical concern.
Seal’s divorce response documents contain no mention of a post-nuptial agreement. What the singer does claim, however, are “community and quasi-community assets” that need dividing. Why the conflicting information? This could be a strong signal that Seal’s legal team is gearing up to dispute the post-nup.
Challenging a post-nuptial agreement is not unusual, especially in high net worth divorce cases. In general, in order to have a legally binding post-nuptial agreement, there must have been (at the time the document was drafted and signed): full disclosure by both parties, independent representation for both parties, no coercion or duress to sign, and fair and equitable terms.
Post-nuptial agreements tend to be scrutinized by the court more than pre-nuptial agreements, meaning that if Seal is able to convince a judge that any of the above were lacking, he may stand a chance at having the court agree to consider the couple’s assets as community property. Since California is a community property state (New Jersey is a “equitable property state”), this could mean Seal has claim to a 50% share of his soon-to-be former wife’s wealth.
For the rest of us non-celebs, the takeaway lesson from Heidi and Seal is clear. If you are considering a post-nuptial agreement to protect assets or outline spousal support in the event of divorce, working with a qualified family law attorney experienced in writing and enforcing post-nuptial agreements is a must if your goal is a document with sticking power.
We will be watching closely to see what unfolds next.