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Politician's divorce acrimony focuses on prenuptial agreement

When a heated divorce heads to the courtroom, existing agreements between estranged spouses can affect not only the direction of the legal proceedings, but also the paths that petitioners will take after their divorce is finalized.

In many states, including Texas, prenuptial agreements are legally binding contracts that can address such varied topics as property division, spousal support, wills, trusts and life insurance. As American families grow more diverse, and as romantic partners seek security in their relationships, prenuptial agreements are playing prominent roles in today's divorce trials.

A congressman from Washington State is embroiled in a divorce drama that has a prenuptial agreement at its center. The 75-year-old congressman initiated a divorce at this time last year, indicating a desire for privacy during separation from his wife. However, the congressman and his former partner have each accused the other of various wrongdoings in the past few months, and public court filings have made it nearly impossible for them to maintain privacy.

The congressman's wife claimed he hid assets from her and actively tried to make it difficult for her attorneys to obtain his financial details. The duo signed a prenuptial agreement back in 1997, in which the wife agreed to receive more than half of their joint assets, which now value approximately $2.5 million.

When the case is heard in court, both attorneys will undoubtedly scrutinize the prenuptial agreement, as well as the conditions surrounding its signing. Typically, it is very difficult to void a prenuptial agreement, as these contracts are intended to avoid confusion and discrepancy later on.

Source: The Seattle Times, "McDermott divorce goes to trial next week," Jim Brunner, Aug. 14, 2012

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Attorney Christine K. Lincoln

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