The celebrity world was marked this week by completely opposite family-related events. In one part of the world, the Brits celebrated the birth of William and Kate's new baby, Prince George Alexander Louis. Adorable pictures of the infant in the arms of his mother, doing his first royal wave to reporters, and in his car seat being strapped into the couple's Range Rover, flooded the Internet. Will and Kate are currently about as far from celebrity divorce blog fodder as a couple can get.
A less idyllic story emerged from another famous family: the Braxtons. R&B singer-songwriter Toni Braxton's sister Trina, a co-star of the new family reality show Braxton Family Values, demonstrated just what kind of values the show is built on when she filed for divorce from her cheating husband Grabriel Adrian-Solis. Trina isn't innocent either: avid watchers of Braxton Family Values report that Trina admitted on television to her own infidelities.
According to TMZ, Trina Braxton hopes she and her soon-to-be ex can negotiate a separation agreement to divvy up their assets and sort matters out privately. While a good domestic contract (whether signed before, during, or after marriage) might not make for good television, it can go a long way towards avoiding drama and saving money.
It could be that even Will and Kate have a contract in place, perhaps a pre-nup signed before their marriage. The UK Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that pre-nuptial agreements apply in the UK-a ruling that could perhaps have saved Will's own parents from the bitter, highly public divorce negotiations that made headlines throughout 1996.
Under Canadian law, both pre-nups (referred to in Canada as "marriage contracts") and separation agreements (domestic contracts signed upon separation) are common, and they will be enforced by the courts provided they meet certain conditions. Ontario's Family Law Act specifically states that two people who are married or about to marry can enter into private contracts regulating their property and support rights, as well as the right to direct the moral and educational training of their children. The rights to custody and access of children, however, can only be determined upon separation - not in advance.
As this week's celebrity news demonstrates, family lives can run the gamut, from enviable to terrible. Most families are probably nothing like the Royals or the Braxtons, and at least their drama plays out more privately if and when it does occur. But a contract can nevertheless be a useful tool to dispute resolution - or to preventing disputes before they arise.