Divorce Attorneys Have Different Take on Royal Wedding

The unfortunate facts of the fairy tale

While dogs are sniffing Westminster Abbey to protect the upcoming nuptials of William and Kate, people like me are considering the consequences should these royals have a short marriage. The royal family has had a recent litany of failed marriages.

Most couples protect themselves financially and against disclosure of untoward facts by having a pre-nuptial agreement. However, the Brits have a doctrine of “Fair Comment,” which permits people to reveal affairs and other juicy gossip about anything so long as it is based in fact. It is only in this past year that British Courts agreed to even consider a pre-nuptial as a legal document, but enforcement is difficult because of the “Fair Comment” doctrine. Witness Diana’s “tell-all” TV appearance to the world. (It’s rumored that Charles refused to present a pre-nup to Camilla notwithstanding Diana’s revelations.)

Fortunately for us—and celebrities—prenuptials are enforceable in the United States. Before we all wake up early this Friday to see William and Kate at a time in their lives when this may or may not be the furthest thing from their minds, here’s a look at some famous pre-nups.

Russell Crowe and Danielle Spencer have one. So do Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, providing a certain amount per year of marriage to Keith Urban—unless he relapses with drugs. In that event, he gets nothing.

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise have a pre-nuptial agreement. She gets three million dollars each year she stays married. The agreement is void after 11 years, and Katie gets 50 percent of Tom Cruise’s fortune.

Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards had a pre-nup. Their divorce was very public and bitter. Their agreement gave her a four-million-dollar bonus if he ever cheated on her. Needless to say, she earned her bonus.

Britney Spears and Kevin Federline entered into an agreement. He got “only” one million dollars after two years of marriage.

Elizabeth Taylor presented her eighth husband, Larry Fortensky, with a pre-nuptial agreement. After five years of marriage, he got one million dollars.

So what will happen if Kate and William are short-lived? “Fair Comment” is the law of the Brits, and we don’t know whether they signed an agreement—or even if it would withstand the British courts anyway.

Dorothy K. Phillips is a family law attorney with offices in Philadelphia, Wynnewood and Haddonfield. She frequently lectures on family law issues and has been featured on ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN.