You work hard for your money. Think how you would feel if a cheating spouse walked off with your hard-earned nest egg. Despite the odds (38% of marriages end in divorce), only eight per cent of Canadian couples have prenuptial agreements (2017 Ipsos poll). Power couples understand the importance of a domestic contract. Here are nine of the weirdest yet.
1. TV Habits
A New York lawyer reports her client was limited to watching two reality shows a week. The spouse threw in the towel when his football viewing was cut short at two games a month.
2. Who Do You Love?
Justin Timberlake is rumoured to owe actor-wife Jessica Biel $500,000 if he cheats on her. The couple had their second child while COVID’ing in July. Actors Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen are said to have set the price of infidelity at $4 million.
3. It’s All in the Timing
BTW, infidelity clauses are generally unenforceable in Canada, which has no-fault divorces. Cheating has no effect on divorce settlements or spousal support. An Ontario man’s argument was upended when he claimed a domestic contract should be set aside because his much younger wife was having an affair and thinking of leaving him when she signed it. As the court stated, domestic contracts aren’t meant to enforce personal obligations such as being faithful or committed. While couples must disclose financial information with “utmost good faith and fair dealing”, that doesn’t include extramarital affairs.
4. Pillow Talk
Having sex at least three times a week featured prominently in a U.S. couples’ prenup. Fuhgeddaboutit. Sexual clauses are unenforceable in Canada, as are many lifestyle dictates, like how much you weigh.
5. Oh So Kardashian
TV celeb Khloe Kardashian got $2 million ($500,000 per year) when she split from former Los Angeles Laker Lamar Odom in 2015. Along with a cool $4 million California mansion and $1 million wedding ring, she’s sole beneficiary to Odom’s $10 million life insurance policy. Older sis Kim reportedly gets up to $10 million ($1 million a year) if rapper spouse Kanye West wanders. After all, domestic contracts are just a financial arrangement.
6. Unfair, Who Cares?
Cave quid volunt (be careful what you wish for). Fairness is irrelevant, according to the Supreme Court of Canada. A British Columbia woman had independent legal advice a prenup giving her 20% of the couple’s assets was unfair but signed anyway. When a lower court tossed it in favour of a more equal split, her lawyer ex appealed. As the Supreme Court warned, “If the respondent truly believed that the agreement was unacceptable at the time, she should not have signed it.”
7. Third Time Lucky
Construction worker and two-time divorceé Larry Fortensky got $1 million from actor Liz Taylor when they called it quits. He hung around just long enough to collect on the prenuptial agreement. It promised a lump sum settlement if they stayed married for five years. The high stakes marriage at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch came after the pair met at the Betty Ford Center for addictions treatment.
8. Coke is Not It
Grammy-winning country singer and American Idol judge Keith Urban has to kick a cocaine habit forever to collect any of actor Nicole Kidman’s $150 million fortune.
9. Who Says It’s Judgmental?
Washington Capitals co-owner and billionaire Sheila Johnson bagged $400 million when she left her wealthy spouse of 30 years. Between the prenup and property division, it was one of the largest divorce settlements in the U.S. What happened afterwards raised the most eyebrows. Johnson went on to marry Judge William Newman Jr., who oversaw the divorce settlement.
What You Can’t Include
If your marriage is coming apart at the seams, remember a Canadian prenuptial agreement is only legally valid if it is in writing, signed and witnessed. Things it can’t include are:
- Child custody or parental time not in the best interests of the child.
- Child support arrangements.
- Clauses forcing you out of the matrimonial home.
- Waivers of financial disclosure — full disclosure is mandatory.
- Anything illegal or immoral.
No, you can’t withhold spousal support if your ex is adulterous. Unjust clauses will be struck by Ontario courts — another reason to get independent legal advice before you sign. It’s a downer to discover your domestic contract is invalid, 10 years after you drafted it.
Legal Grounds for Challenging Domestic Contracts
Speaking of which, your prenuptial contract could be challenged in court if:
- your spouse was misleading in making financial disclosure
- you signed under extreme duress
- you were unduly influenced to agree to the terms
- it was fraudulent
- the terms are grossly unjust
- the agreement’s nature, effect and consequences are unclear
- or any other valid reason in contract law.
Getting a Second Opinion, Just in Case
Now that you know what you can’t do, here’s what you can. If you share a lawyer to draft the prenup, get separate lawyers to review the draft before you sign. FYI, although independent legal advice is recommended and could prevent court challenges, it’s not required by law. Expect that your prenup will be upheld by the court unless you have unjustly waived rights like spousal support you are entitled to and your spouse has significantly more assets than you. Oh and ask for a certificate of independent legal advice from your lawyer. That enables you to use family arbitration, instead of family court, to settle marital differences. You could save a bundle, just when you need it most.
Independent Legal Advice for Prenuptials in Ontario
Take your lawyer’s advice and get an independent legal opinion before you sign a prenup. Video call online with an Axess Law Ontario lawyer day or evening, at a time convenient for you. Dial toll-free to 1-877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto at 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form for an appointment. In person meetings are available at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.
Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s family law services.