Divorce lawyers see rise in untraditional pre-nups

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by Shern-Min Chow / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on October 15, 2012 at 10:24 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 15 at 11:38 PM

HOUSTON --  Would you agree to get married, if it also meant you agreed to be skinny or to be intimate with your spouse on a certain schedule?

Pre nuptial agreements include all sorts of things these days, and they aren’t just for the super rich. In fact, 73 percent of divorce lawyers surveyed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyer in 2010, report pre-nups are up in the last five years.  The same group reports that 51 percent of divorce lawyers surveyed in 2012, said they’ve seen an increase in post-nuptial agreements over the past three years.

You’ve seen their pictures in the media.  They seemed so happy: The Bagwells, the A-Rod-riguezes, the Farbs, Houston millionaires, and the Sarofims, Houston billionaires.  All had pre-nups and the same Houston divorce attorneys: Lilly, Newman and Van Ness.  The high powered family law firm has seen all kinds of quirky additions to Texas marital contracts.

“There are weight limits, color of hair limits,” said Attorney Bobby Newman. The woman could not weigh more than 110 or 125 pounds.  Her hair had to remain blond.

There are also demands about sex from husband and wife. 

“(One) required it every day, if the husband wanted sexual relations,” he said.

In another, he added, “the husband was required to perform sexually and that husband did not live up to the contractual obligations.”

The wife sued and won.  That case is now being appealed.

Lilly, Newman and Van Ness do four times as many pre-nups as they did a decade ago.

They are no longer just for celebrities.   Take Carrie Howard and James Ephraim.  The thirty-something couple were recently at Sweet Delights near Shepherd and Interstate-10 for a cake tasting.  Their wedding is in January.  She is a medical center researcher.  He is returning to banking.  They have decided on a venue, a dress, invitations and a pre-nup.

“In my opinion it’s like marriage insurance,” Howard said.

Would you, though, say ‘I do’ to a sexual performance clause?

“What if you’re not in the mood.  There are times you’re tired,” Ephraim said.

Howard laughed.

“You’re still going to whip out the pre-nup? ‘Hey, I’m sorry you signed,’” she said.

How about the hair and weight clause? 

“So your love is conditional?” Ephraim said.

Howard played devil’s advocate.

“I can kind of understand.  You get married and your partner feels ‘Oh I can let myself go,’” she said.

Mostly though, it’s about money matters.  For the super rich, one spouse, typically the wife, can get a huge stipend based on number of years married: say a million for the first 5 years, more than that if the marriage last longer.  In fact, there are women who are paid hundreds of millions of dollars for being married.

Howard likes this clause.

“It’s like staying with a company for so many years.  You get more money for the years you’ve been loyal to that company.  It’s actually not a bad idea,” she said.

Ephraim does not like this clause.

“That’s not going to happen,” he said.

Pre-nup not enough? Try the post-nup which is also on the rise.  Last month, Lilly, Newman and Van Ness helped a star athlete on the brink of divorce reconcile, in part with this clause. 

“For each instance of infidelity there was a multi-million dollar payment,” Newman said.

“Just pay a fine?” Ephraim said.

“Like a ticket?” Howard added.

All of this is a bit odd for the bride’s parents.  Dona and Jerry Howard have been married 37 years.

“We didn’t have to have a pre-nup because we didn’t have anything to pre-nup about,” Dona Howard said.

Jerry Howard laughed at the physical beauty clauses.

“It’s comical to me, because if you live long enough your physical attributes are going to change,” he said.

Dona Howard, a retired university counselor, and Jerry Howard,  a retired Marathon oil executive, reflected on their marriage. 

“It has worked out very well. I am very happy,” he said.

“Surprisingly well I think,” Dona Howard said.

You can download pre-nup forms for free or do it online with ‘legal advice.’

Legalzoom.com advertises pre-nups for as low as $695.

Lilly, Newman and Van Ness advises clients against quirky causes on appearance and sexual performance because they go against public policy and are hard to enforce. 

 

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