Kaley Cuoco Wins Divorce with a Big Bang
Kaley Cuoco's prenuptial agreement has saved her $45M fortune in her divorce from professional tennis player Ryan Sweeting. The two finalized their divorce this month, after Kaley filed for divorce in September 2015, ending their 21-month marriage.
During her marriage to Sweeting, Kaley signed a new three-year contract with the Big Bang Theory to receive $1M per episode for 72 remaining episodes and a 1% share of the show's back-end profits. That earned her a spot on Forbes' list of the 100 Highest-Paid Celebrities in 2015. Sweeting, a professional tennis player with only one career tournament win, has a net worth of approximately $2M and has had ongoing injury problems.
Cuoco and Sweeting signed an iron-clad prenuptial agreement in November 2013, one month before their wedding. The agreement covered spousal support and asset division. It was very prudent of Kaley to finalize a prenuptial agreement to protect her large fortune, especially because the two had only been dating for six months before the marriage.
The final divorce set out that Kaley will keep their home in Tarzana, California and their Santa Barbara beach home. She will also keep all her other assets including: her bank accounts, automobiles, horses, life insurance, pensions, earnings and compensation. Ryan will keep his own assets.
Ryan had asked for spousal support and requested to terminate the court's ability to award support to Kaley in his response documents to Kaley's divorce filing. According to the final divorce documents, Ryan will not receive spousal support and in fact agreed to forever waive his right to seek or receive spousal support. However, Kaley will pay Ryan $165,000, split in two payments. She also agreed to pay $195,000 to settle the claims of his athletic therapy and training fees, although she did not have to do so as per the prenuptial agreement. Finally, Kaley will pay his attorney fees to a maximum of $55,000. Overall, Ryan walks away with only a tiny fraction of Kaley's large fortune.
The California Family Code Sections 1610-1617 set out a wide scope of coverage for premarital agreements. Such agreements that are in writing and signed by both parties are enforceable without consideration. There are a limited number of reasons why a court may set aside whole or part of a premarital agreement as unenforceable. Any provision regarding spousal support can only be set aside if the party against whom enforcement of the spousal support provision is sought was not represented by independent counsel at the time of the agreement or if the provision regarding spousal support is unconscionable.
Sweeting could've tried to set aside the agreement by proving he didn't voluntarily sign it or that he wasn't given full disclosure of Cuoco's assets when he signed it. Kaley and her lawyers would've had to prove that Sweeting had an independent attorney represent him when the prenuptial agreement was signed and it wouldn't be unconscionable to enforce it. In the end, it seems as all proper precautions were taken and the prenuptial agreement was executed properly as it was successfully in place and followed during the divorce.
Some people are critical of prenuptial agreements, or marriage contracts as they are known in Canada, as they can be thought of as unromantic or indicating a lack of trust before marriage. However, a marriage contract should be thought of like insurance - a plan to protect yourself for the worst case scenario. A marriage contract drafted by an experienced family law lawyer is a smart precautionary measure, especially if you have more than nominal assets, are entering into a second marriage, or want to protect assets derived from your parents or family.
In Ontario, s.52(1) of the Family Law Act recognizes that parties may want to organize their matters in their own way and permits married couples or couples intending to be married to enter into an agreement in which they agree on their respective rights and obligations under the marriage or on separation related to ownership in or division of property and support obligations. Property set out and agreed upon in a marriage contract can be excluded from a spouse's net family property should separation occur later. To be legally binding, a marriage contract must be in writing, signed by both spouses and by two witnesses. Full frank financial disclosure should also be exchanged prior to the execution of the marriage contract.
A court in Ontario can set aside or ignore all or part of a marriage contract in limited circumstances: if one side failed to disclose significant assets, debts or other liabilities; if one side did not understand the nature of the contract; or if there was any fraud, duress or undue influence.
Kaley Cuoco's divorce is a lesson for anyone entering into a marriage with significant assets: a marriage contract, prepared the correct way, can protect your assets from your spouse in the event of divorce.