In a high net worth divorce, money is likely to be the focus of much of the proceedings. In addition to the complexities that result from significant assets and sophisticated investment instruments, it is likely that the spouse who generates the primary income will have taken steps to protect that wealth in the event of a divorce.
It is unsurprising that hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, founder of Citadel LLC, had a prenuptial agreement with his now separated wife. Equally unsurprising is the claim of his wife that the prenuptial agreement is invalid, and that she was forced to sign the agreement under duress.
In a high net worth divorce like this one, the validity of the prenuptial agreement will control the distribution of billions of dollars in the eventually property settlement. If it were valid, she would receive 1 percent of his net worth, and if it is invalidated, her share of the marital estate is likely to be substantially larger.
While New York permits prenuptial agreements, factors that courts look to in determining validity include the time prior to the marriage ceremony that it was discussed by the couple and whether both parties were represented by independent counsel.
Duress and undue influence are relevant and Ms. Griffin’s lawyers appear to have alleged all of the factors a court would want to see in order to invalidate the agreement. They claim the prenuptial agreement was first discussed three days before the wedding, that he became violent and “destroyed” furniture while arguing about it.
They also claim she signed the agreement three hours prior to her wedding rehearsal dinner, and she agreed after seeing a psychologist with whom he had had a “prior relationship.” If these allegations are found by the court as being true, it seems possible the agreement could be invalidated.
His attorneys are likely to present a different set of facts.
The Wall Street Journal, “Citadel Founder Ken Griffin’s Divorce Could Cost Billions,” Rob Copeland, September 3, 2014