In what many are calling “the wedding of the year,” Prince Harry of Wales and American actress Meghan Markle are set to get married in May of 2018. With the amount of wealth spread between the two, one might imagine there is an iron-clad prenuptial agreement in place. However, major news outlets (and gossip sites, of course) reported recently that the couple won’t be signing a prenup.
Many were surprised to hear this, especially in the case of someone like Prince Harry, who has an estimated net worth of about $25 million. This news, though, is not shocking to most British citizens. Unlike the United States, prenuptial agreements are not the norm. In fact, according to the firm Burt Brill & Cardens in the UK, prenuptial agreements are not even enforceable in court, although judges are likely to consider and uphold one when making a ruling.
Although it may seem that Prince Harry has significantly more to lose if the couple divorces, it is actually Ms. Markle who is in a more precarious position. The couple will live in a home owned by the royal family. Any national treasures that are part of the prince’s assets are part of the royal collection. Money set up in trusts for him by his late mother Princess Diana likely have provisions prohibiting the splitting of assets between parties. In short, because the royal family owns everything, it would not be divisible in a divorce.
Splitting assets after divorce
Of course, most of us will never marry into royalty. And if we do find ourselves getting divorced, we are more likely to find that splitting up assets can be a challenging and frustrating process. It is difficult enough when it comes to material, tangible possessions such as homes, cars, and any money in our accounts. It can be more challenging for couples with significant assets in retirement accounts, investments, or businesses.
Maryland is what is known as an “equitable distribution” state regarding property distribution. In this case, equitable does not mean equal, but instead what is fair for each party under their personal circumstances.
If a couple cannot agree on how to distribute the marital property, a judge will step in to make the decision. The judge will typically make his or her decision based on the assets and debts of the couple, how those assets were accumulated, and any circumstances that might affect how that property is divided.
The court is interested most in which property is marital, and thus subject to division, and which is separate, and belongs to one party only. Marital property can include anything from stocks and bonds to homes to wedding china—anything acquired together, during the marriage. Non-marital property can include property acquired by either person before the marriage, property acquired through inheritance (like jewelry or a second home), or anything agreed-upon in a prenuptial agreement.
The Maryland divorce attorneys at Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC are ready to assist you. We can answer all your questions and stand by your side through the entire process. To reserve a consultation at our office in Annapolis, please call 410.921.2422 or fill out our contact form.