I’d like to think that the announcement last week that Tiger Woods and estranged wife Elin Nordegren have divorced would bring to an end the carnival that has surrounded the pair ever since the bizarre incident that saw him crash his car outside their home in November last year.
I fear it won’t though and the whole sorry episode, in my opinion, has been a disaster, not just for the couple, but also for the image of pre-nuptial agreements.
A joint statement confirmed the divorce has been finalised in Bay County, Florida, and the agreement allowed for joint parenting of their two children. Exact details about the settlement though have been the subject of huge speculation and much salivating by commentators throughout this year.
The couple – him one of the world’s most highly paid sport stars and she a Swedish model – married in October 2004. Numerous reports suggest Elin signed a prenuptial agreement of £12 million to which she would be automatically entitled after 10 years of marriage.
However, as the pantomime of their split and reports of his infidelity oozed out, it seems clear there was a “renegotiation” of the pre-nup. The reported consensus (which doesn’t necessarily mean it is true of course) is that Elin will get just over £100 million and will keep one home in Florida, while the golfer will retain their house in Jupiter Island, Florida. He is also likely to keep a £2 million Los Angeles apartment and their 155ft yacht Privacy. She will keep property bought in Sweden.
I am less concerned about the details as I am with this renegotiation. Pre-nups are a hard enough sell as it is. There is a serious stigma attached to them still. People view them as unromantic. Why prepare for the worst? It is almost an admission that a marriage will fail. Statistics suggest that between 30% and 50% will though. It is like house or car insurance. You don’t pay it because you think you are going to crash or have a water leak ruin your carpet, but it gives you peace of mind in case something does go wrong. Pre-nups are the same. The rules that govern them in the US and UK are slightly different but the premise is the same. They set out how financial matters (at least) will be dealt with if a marriage doesn’t work.
To have such a high-profile case then seem to suggest that that anyone can simply go and renegotiate the terms if they feel like it when things go wrong does beg the question: why bother in the first place?
Pre-nuptials are not the preserve of the rich and famous but it is in the celebrity world where most people are likely to hear about them and their worth. Tiger’s off-course game strikes a blow for these agreements the world over.
Comments and response – Tiger confusion strikes blow for prenups
I imagine the renegotiation may have been driven by the public relations/sponsorship income consequences for Tiger Woods had it been revealed that his ex-wife would have been left in comparative poverty (these poor people how do they manage?) with only $12m. Surely parties to any contract should be allowed to vary those terms where there is a mutual wish to do so. Having a Court unravel such an agreement would be my greatest concern unless there were compelling reasons for doing so, such as some fundamental fraud or non-disclosure at the time the agreement was made. …
By Peter Rouse on Wednesday September 8, 2010
I haven’t done any family law work for quite a few years, but I think I agree with Peter. If it were the court that was seeking to change the prenuptial agreement I would be very worried about their usefulness, but if the parties themselves are seeking to change it by agreement, I really cannot see the harm in it. I certainly don’t think it means that people (celebreties or not) shouldn’t use them? …
By Chris Cann on Wednesday September 8, 2010
It seems they agreed the terms between them and the PR perspective is important. Damage limitation seems to be the name of this particular game. Perhaps there’s a case for regularly updated agreements. Would they work? Or would the “renegotiation” always prove final?…
By Jason Cobine on Wednesday September 8, 2010
All contracts are subject to revisions, and apparently theirs was revised several times. I doubt, however, if any of the revisions addressed conditions on post-marriage behavior (talking to the press) – I’ve heard that was part of the settlement. With scandal impacting Tiger’s image and promotional revenue putting a high value on silence seems reasonable….
By Sherry Adler on Wednesday September 8, 2010