You might be surprised that I’m writing you this letter, considering that you are one of the world’s most prominent examples of a happy marriage. But, as a seasoned divorce attorney, I’ve learned to spot the ones whose marriages are on the way out—and frankly, Cinderella, I’ve seen that look in your eye.
You probably don’t want to admit it. You’re probably thinking, If I get a divorce from Prince Charming, will I be letting the world down? Will I be disillusioning thousands, nay millions of little girls whose dreams of finding fairy tale romance hinge on my prime example? Cinderella, we can only hope.
With this in mind, I’m going to advise you now as if you had wandered into my office, impractical shoes and all, asking “How do I divorce Prince Charming?”
Lesson One: Get a prenup.
I’m not going to sugar-coat this, Cinderella: You, like most ill-advised Disney princesses,
have been operating under the assumption that a Prince will make you happy. I’m guessing based on the fact that you were roughly sixteen when you got married, and your decision to marry was doubtless driven by a desire to escape a life of indentured servitude, you were probably more focused on racing to a life of bliss than on arranging a prenup.
Prince Charming has substantial assets, and this was probably part of the attraction. But,
as you’ll find out in the process of divorcing him, the Prince’s assets—his royal inheritance etc.—are “pre-marital assets” that you won’t have any claim to. Thus, like so many women, you were in a financially disadvantaged position at the start of the marriage, you assumed you shouldn’t ask for a prenup, and now you are at a financial disadvantage when you want to end the marriage.
This probably seems unfair, considering you’ve spent your life looking after Prince Charming and your royal children, smiling and waving when you’re supposed to, fulfilling your responsibilities, even indulging his sexual fantasies of having you dress up like a house wench and tickle his feet with your feather-duster—even with all that, now you’re left in a position where you probably can’t touch his royal monies. Such is New York law.
Lesson Two: Commingle your assets.
My advice to you is to get some of it for yourself by commingling your assets. In effect, commingling assets means mixing joint money, or your personal accounts (for example what you get from renting your father’s house to those wicked stepsisters of yours) with your husband’s inherited money. The idea is to make it difficult for Prince Charming’s lawyers to show clear separation of accounts in the court.
In short: open a joint bank account. Make big financial outlays (country house, jewels, angel investment in a Talking Mouse Circus) using mixed moneys. Avoid making big joint purchases from your husband’s inherited funds whenever possible, because you won’t have any claim to those in the divorce. And so on.
Contrary to the general belief among legendary damsels in distress, marrying royalty isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. Without a prenup and without commingling your assets, frankly it doesn’t matter that you caught him in three different broom closets with three different scullery maids last year; his pre-marital assets are still likely to stay with him.
Cinderella, you understand the complications of the fairy tale marriage; you, more than anyone, know what it really means to live “happily ever after.” I urge you to take that knowledge, along with your glass slippers and your wits, to the bank.
James J. Sexton