Q Before marriage, my future husband owned a company. He insisted our pre-marital agreement say that all the money he took out of the business as taxable income would be joint property, that if we had children, I could be a stay at home mom, and, if we got divorced, he’d keep one hundred percent of whatever the company was worth at that time.
Ten years later my husband sold his business. He believed he could make more money buying and selling stocks. He didn’t ask for, and I had no say in his decision. And, because it was his new business, I believed he’d only invest money from the sale of his company.
Six months ago he moved out, saying he wanted a divorce. Shortly thereafter I learned he invested our joint money and lost over five million dollars!
He now wants to keep the money from the sale of his business and divide what’s left of the joint assets. That forces me to lose 2.5 million. Can he get away with that?
A You’ve got to deal with a lot of “if, and’s, and but’s”.
First, he’ll claim you said he could use the joint assets. But the content of conversations between a husband and wife are not admissible in court unless there were others present who could hear and understand what was said. That usually eliminates whatever may have been said while young children were present. So review emails and other documents. If there was no such written agreement, a judge would probably order your husband to pay you half the joint money, plus half of what he lost.
Second, as is often the situation, your claim would be stronger if you prove he controlled the joint money and insisted you never open or read his mail. Your claim is even stronger if you also prove he never let you read tax returns, asking you to quickly sign just before they had to be filed.
Third, hire an expert in investing who is qualified to testify that your husband wasted money because his investments were the reckless equivalent of gambling by playing roulette in casinos or betting that rag-tag horses would win the Kentucky Derby. If such risks are proven, a judge could rule your husband used joint money to avoid risking his sale-of-company money. If so, it’d be inequitable for him to walk away with all of his assets intact after losing so much of what was rightfully your money.
Last, if the premarital agreement only says he keeps the company in case of a divorce, argue you’re entitled to half the proceeds from the sale of that company. After that your husband will eventually conclude its best to equally split the joint assets and to also pay you another $2.5 million. That’s the only way he can avoid a possibly far worse result. After all, when all is said and done, if he makes a bet, he’s been on a losing streak.