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Phyllis Chesler

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November 23, 2011 - 1:24 am

But,if you’ve decided that this is your one-and-only-till-death-do-you part, then for God’s sake, first 1) draw up a prenuptial agreement. Wealthy men who have been previously married usually insist that their third wives-to-be sign a prenup so that their assets are protected; they may have adult children from previous marriages. Often, these second or third wives are marrying for the first time and want to prove that they love this man, not his money, and that they “trust” that their love and marriage will last.

One experienced matrimonial lawyer recently observed that, in his experience, wealthy women are more generous in their prenups than their male counterparts are.

He also said that while he’d met many a female gold digger (and married one or two himself), most “women can’t be saved from themselves. They naively accept prenups that limit them, and soon find themselves divorced and out on the streets ten stories below their former lifestyles.”

If you have decided to get a divorce — or if your spouse has said they intend to do so — stop. Before you do anything else, 2) identify all your family finances, all the assets from your life insurance to your homeowners policy. Look at the riders. Make sure you know what is in every checking and saving account, your investment portfolio, safe deposit box, and pension investments. Your kitchen piggy bank. The jewelry. Art work. Real estate. Study your tax returns. Usually, men are on top of this. Women, even those with advanced degrees, or careers in finance, sign what their husband/protector tells them to sign. Make sure you know what credit cards you have, what’s owed, what your credit line is, and whether payments are up to date. Understand what your health insurance coverage is.

Another lawyer told me this story:

I have a woman right now who is a Wharton MBA graduate. She trusted her husband to manage the family expenses. She never looked at a credit card statement, a bank statement, or their joint tax returns. She was shocked to learn that her husband was a gambler and the family was living on credit cards. When she hired me, their co-op apartment was in foreclosure and the IRS had liens on their accounts. She is going to pay a heavy price for being so naïve.

Finally: How do I get the right lawyer?

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