Legal Lessons Harlemites Can Learn From Celebrity Break-Ups

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By Hillel L. Presser

Harlem girl Kelis divorced Nas, she has remarried having her second child, back in the day East Harlem’s Burt Lancaster had two marriages end in divorce. Sadly, there’s never a shortage of notable divorces, and outlets like TMZ are never dry on the topic.



Top-tier actors, athletes, business titans and their spouses are fodder for a public suffering their own breakup or divorce issues. Even during their lowest moments, these folks serve as entertainers – as a way for the rest of us to escape our own lives from Harlem to Harare.

But we also can learn something from our heroes, says attorney Hillel Presser, of the Presser Law Firm, P.A., whose firm specializes in comprehensive asset protection.

“Whether you rejoice in seeing how the mighty have fallen or you truly empathize with their pain, celebrity divorces remind us of at least one thing: it can happen to us,” says Presser, author of “Financial Self Defense” (www.assetprotectionattorneys.com). 

“Divorce can happen to anyone. While you may not suffer the same kind of public humiliation as a public figure, it’s still very painful – and, it can cost you your life’s work in assets.”

Presser details how to cover the basics in case the unthinkable happens to you.

    • Insist on a pre-marriage agreement. This is a written contract between intended spouses. It specifies how their property and income will be divided in divorce. Pre-marriage agreements – or premarital, prenuptial or ante-nuptial agreements – aren’t only for the wealthy. Every couple could use one. It’s their most efficient, equitable way to settle matters in advance of a future divorce. Pre-marriage agreements resolve many issues less easily reconciled by divorce courts.
    • Write a post-nuptial agreement even if you’re married. Most states (including New York state) allow for these post-nuptial agreements. Married spouses may want to contractually agree on how they’ll divide their assets should they later divorce. As with pre-marriage agreements, the enforceability of the post-nuptial agreement requires the agreement to be fair; that both spouses fully understand the agreement; that neither party defrauded the other; and that each party had independent legal counsel.
    • Don’t cohabit without a cohabitation agreement. Many couples now live together without marriage. Some want to test their relationship before they marry. Seniors live together because marriage would disqualify Social Security or pension benefits. Others want to avoid the financial responsibility of marriage, or they don’t want to commit to the care of an ill partner. More than a few want to avoid the legal and financial complications from marriage – particularly when one party has substantially more wealth.
    • Divorce-proof your assets with an international trust. A spouse can put his or her assets beyond the reach of the divorce court with an international asset protection trust. Those anticipating a divorce can shelter their assets in off-shore asset protection trusts. They must disclose the trust assets to the divorce court, but the court cannot recover or divide these assets. However, such maneuvers do not ensure victory. Divorce courts can award the victimized spouse more U.S.-based assets to compensate for the trust-shielded assets. Or, compensation may be awarded via alimony or support. But such asset protection is useful for those with few remaining assets in the U.S. and one’s income is too small for the court to score through an excessive alimony award. 

Hillel L. Presser’s firm, The Presser Law Firm, P.A., represents individuals and businesses in establishing comprehensive asset protection plans. He is a graduate of Syracuse University’s School of Management and Nova Southeastern University’s law school, and formerly served on Nova’s President’s Advisory Council. He is a former adjunct faculty member for law at Lynn University.

Photo credit via Spin

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