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TV host's situation shows link between prenups and custody

Either married or divorced, many Texas residents are likely to have a host of preconceptions about prenuptial agreements. One of the most pertinent mistaken beliefs about prenups is that they only cover matters pertaining to property division. Indeed, while prenuptial agreements are invaluable when it comes to asset division, their contents can affect a family unit beyond just assets and liabilities.

Many Houston residents who watch The View may already know that one of the popular hosts of that show, Sherri Shepherd, is currently engaged in a complicated child custody battle with her husband. The pair tied the knot in 2011 and are currently expecting a baby via surrogate. However, the husband recently filed for legal separation; a short time later, Shepherd filed for divorce. Her estranged spouse initially sought custody of the unborn child, but the pair's prenuptial agreement sheds some important light on the subject.

According to media reports, the prenup indicates that Shepherd, not her husband, will get full custody of the baby if the couple should divorce. Interestingly, Shepherd's husband indicated a desire to invalidate the prenup. He cited "fraud" as the reason.

In Texas, prenups must be in accordance with all laws - for instance, a spouse can't simply avoid paying child support by including a section on that subject in his or her prenup. However, as long as the stipulations in a prenup follow all laws on the matter at issue, there are issues beyond property division that can be included in the agreement. These may include matters that reflect positively or negatively on a person's ability and desire to be an effective parent.

In child custody situations, there are likely to be a number of factors taken into consideration, so that the best interests of the child can be viewed comprehensively by the court. While a prenup in Texas can't simply give one spouse or the other custody of any children resulting from the relationship, it can reflect on each person. For example, if the prenup mentions one spouse's lifestyle and that lifestyle is not conducive to a safe, positive environment for children, it could be one among many factors in a Houston child custody decision.

Source: New York Daily News, "Sherri Shepherd's prenup give her full custody of unborn child with Lamar Sally: report," Kirthana Ramisetti, May 15, 2014

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Attorney Christine K. Lincoln

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