Protecting What Matters Most

Prenups are rarely ironclad

On Behalf of | Aug 27, 2019 | High Asset Divorce

Robert De Niro is famous for his long and celebrated acting career thanks to such films as “Raging Bull,” “The Deer Hunter” and “Meet the Fockers.” Despite his fame, De Niro closely guards his privacy, so he is likely not happy that his wife of 20 years (1997-1999 and 2004-2019) is dragging their divorce through the press. De Niro’s attorney argues that the wife signed a prenup that entitles her to $500,000 in cash, $1 million in maintenance, a $6 million apartment as well as half the value of the couple’s New York City marital residence.

While this arrangement may seem generous, the wife’s legal team argues that the De Niro estate is currently worth an estimated $500 million and she wants half. The actor made 38 films since 2004, started 35 businesses including the Nobu sushi chain as well as a film production company and The Greenwich Hotel. This all adds up to an estimated $300 million in income. The actor’s team argues that the prenup signed by his wife protects much of those assets from being shared.

Why is the prenup not enforceable?

Attorneys try to address every potential issue that is foreseeable, but the contracts become less and less binding as time goes on as assets become blended regardless of how hard they try to keep clear boundaries. It is also worth noting that New York State requires that a prenup must still be “fair,” which is a subjective and vague term and likely means that a portion of potential marital assets will be shared regardless of what the prenup says.

Custody also an issue

The couple is also fighting over the custody of their seven-year-old daughter. Unlike some states, New York prenups can address custody matters like care and support, but a judge will often need to make a decision that is in the best interests of the child regardless of what the prenup outlines.

Settlement yet to be determined

De Niro’s lawyer claims that the wife is dragging out a settlement that could have been handled discreetly. However, divorces with complex estates or a large amount of wealth often need a judge to ensure that the arrangement is an equitable one for the spouse as well as family members. Those with questions or concerns regarding their prenup and an upcoming divorce should discuss the matter with an attorney who has experience handling prenups and high asset divorces here in New York.


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