Kelly Clarkson has been a household name since 2002, when she won the very first season of American Idol. Clarkson’s singing talent and likability has earned her a sustained run of success in the music industry and has even landed her a spot as a co-host on The Voice.
But what does it look like when a woman of Clarkson’s stature gets married—and then divorced?
It has recently been revealed that Clarkson and her husband of seven years decided to separate in 2020 and file for divorce. Clarkson and her soon-to-be ex husband signed what is called a prenuptial agreement prior to the commencement of their marriage.
A premarital or prenuptial agreement is an agreement that defines the property division rights and financial rights that would apply in the event of a divorce. It is a written contract that is used to define terms regarding things like future spousal support, real property, businesses, inheritance funds, and retirement accounts.
On August 12, 2021, it was reported that a judge validated and upheld the parties’ premarital agreement, meaning that, in Clarkson’s case, everything Clarkson earned or acquired during the marriage will remain her separate property (this is common among most premarital agreements, although it is not a guaranteed provision contained in all of them). Her husband was looking for more of an equal division of those marital assets, arguing against the validity of the premarital agreement.
While the precise nature of Clarkson’s husband’s arguments against the validity of the prenuptial agreement remain unknown, we can certainly speculate by reviewing California Family Code § 1615 (Clarkson filed for divorce in Los Angeles, so California law applies). The following are just a few ways you can attack the validity of a premarital agreement:
The party against whom enforcement is sought did not execute (or sign) the agreement voluntarily.
The code provides that if you were not represented by legal counsel at time of signature, you could have a case to challenge the premarital agreement. However, if you expressly waived representation by legal counsel, you might have a harder time challenging the premarital agreement. The following are some other ways your signature to a prenuptial agreement may not be deemed “voluntary”:
If the agreement was executed between January 1, 2002 and January 1, 2020, no less then seven calendar days may have elapsed between when you were first presented with the final agreement and advised to seek legal counsel and the time the agreement was signed.
If the agreement was executed on or after January 1, 2020, no less than seven calendar days may have elapsed between when you were first presented with the final agreement and the time the agreement was signed, regardless of whether the party is represented by legal counsel.
In other words, ever since January 1, 2020, a premarital agreement’s signature is considered “involuntary” if you waited less than seven calendar days between being presented with the final agreement for the first time and signing it, regardless of whether or not you had an attorney.
If you expressly waived your right to legal counsel but were not fully informed of the terms of the agreement and their basic effects.
If you were not proficient in the language in which your rights were explained and in which the agreement was written.
If you executed the agreement under duress, fraud, or undue influence.
The code provides that it will not enforce a premarital agreement if the agreement was unconscionable at the time it was executed and, before execution, all of the following applied:
The party was not provided a full disclosure of property and financial obligations of the other party
The party did not voluntarily and expressly waive in writing the right to such a disclosure from the other party
The party did not have, or reasonably could not have had, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party
Evidently, Kelly Clarkson’s husband was unable to prevail on any of these grounds, and the judge determined that it was a valid prenuptial agreement.
If you have questions about the validity of your own prenuptial agreement, consult with an experienced family law attorney at Cage and Miles today.