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Family law award favors prenuptial contract over other equities

When a high-earning business owner and his spouse go through a divorce in Pennsylvania, the court will enforce a prenuptial agreement between them unless the agreement was riddled with lack of proper and accurate disclosure. If the higher-earning spouse is not forthright about his/her earnings and assets in the prenuptial, the other spouse may have grounds to challenge it in court during a divorce proceeding. Family law precedent places great importance on enforcing a prenuptial contract unless the wealthier spouse hides the vital facts about his/her assets from the other party.

The latter issue does not appear to be in contention in the divorce of Richard and Alicia Stephenson, which has been crawling through the divorce court of another state for the past eight years. The defendant in the case, Richard, is the founder of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. He has reported high income in past years that has at times exceeded $150 million annually.

This is a somewhat typical case where the wife mainly stayed at home and raised the couple's daughter. Although Alicia did assist her husband with the business, this was not seen by the court as a major factor. It was overshadowed to some extent by the lavish lifestyle of Patricia during the marriage. The court commented that she was provided with every expense necessary to engage in the life of the "rich and famous."

The court also pointed out that, although she had been held back from developing her own career during the marriage, Alicia had not acted post-separation to further her education and become self-sustaining. However, more important to the court's decision was the existence of the prenuptial agreement. On that basis, the court made a modest award that provided wife with $27,500 per month in alimony after taxes, a tax-free lump sum of $6.5 million based on division of jointly-held property, a Porsche, two motorcycles, jewelry and a 401(k) fund. The decision is in accordance with family law principles that apply in Pennsylvania and many other states.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "8-year divorce battle ends with multimillionaire's ex-wife getting $6.5M, Porsche", Amanda Marrazzo, Robert McCoppin, Sept. 14, 2017

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