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Billionaire couple fighting over validity of prenuptial agreement

Drafting a prenuptial agreement is an essential item on many Texans' pre-wedding to-do lists. When one of the betrothed has significantly more assets than the other, or both are bringing their own wealth into their marriage, a prenuptial agreement is particularly crucial to protecting people's assets and lifestyles in the event of a divorce.

A prenup, however, does not necessarily guarantee that. Divorcing spouses can dispute a prenup and, in some cases, succeed. One divorcing billionaire power couple is embroiled in such a dispute now. Kenneth C. Griffin, who founded the hedge fund Citadel and has an estimated net worth of $5.5 billion, filed for divorce in July from his wife, Anne Dias Griffin. How much of that he gets to keep will depend in part on whether the prenup signed by Griffin and his wife 11 years ago holds up.

According to Anne Griffin, if the prenup is upheld, she will get only about one percent of her husband's worth. Forbes estimates that would amount to $50 million. That agreement, she claims, should be voided because she signed it under duress.

Ms. Griffin, who has a Harvard Business School degree and headed her own investment firm before the couple had their three children, contends that she signed the prenup just a day before the Chicago couple's wedding in Versailles in 2003. She says her fiance caught her by surprise with a draft of the document not long before that.

Further, Ms. Griffin claims that her fiance suggested they see a psychologist to help resolve their issues over having a prenup and that the psychologist recommended that she sign it. In her filing with the court, Anne Griffin says she was "unduly influenced by Kenneth and the psychologist under the guise of a counseling session…" Mr. Griffin, she claims, was already seeing the therapist.

An attorney representing Mr. Griffin, who is also fighting for custody of his children, calls the allegations "salacious and simply untrue." Ms. Griffin, who is asking for sole custody, wants to move them to New York.

Whatever the truth is in this case, no one should be blindsided by a prenuptial agreement or feel that they are being pressured into signing it. Some couples choose to retain separate attorneys to help ensure that their interests are protected. Drafting a prenup that will hold up in court and be fair to both partners requires time, thought, full disclosure, often some negotiation and sound legal guidance.

Source: The New York Times, "Anne Griffin Seeks to Void Prenuptial Agreement With Ken Griffin" Michael J. De La Merced, Sep. 02, 2014

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