There’s one thing you can say for sure about the Kim Kardashian and her Klan: They like to keep it in the family.
And now that Kim Kardashian has given Kris Humphries, her husband of exactly 72 days, the boot, formally filing for divorce in California, she’s also reportedly blocking his bid for spousal support.
According to divorce documents filed by Kim last Monday, she’s asking the court to reject any alimony requests by Humphries, and requesting that both parties cover their own legal fees. Her assets—and by that we mean earnings—will be divided in accordance with their prenup.
Most people are focused on where Kim’s marriage—or depending on how you see it, PR stunt—went wrong, but in one key way she was perfectly prepared for walking down the aisle.
A Multi-Million Dollar Decision
Here’s one love lesson you can learn from Kim: Signing a prenuptial agreement might be the best decision the starlet—who raked in over $65 million last year—ever made.
Whether you intend to be married for 72 days or 72 years, or you make one one-millionth of what your average Kardashian does, a prenup is one wedding to-do every couple should consider.
(Here are four signs you might want to sign one.)
Yes, the prenuptial agreement often gets a bad rap for being “unromantic.” But as the Kim and Kris quickie marriage and divorce should illustrate, there is something worse: Leaving your assets—and your future—up to chance.
The fact is, the divorce rate aside, you never know what’s going to happen in a relationship, and protecting yourself financially just in case certainly does nothing to detract from your future happiness.
But, in the event a marriage doesn’t work out, what happens next?
Divorces vs. Annulments
First, let’s put it out there: It’s usually only in Hollywood that your average marriage lasts a staggering ten weeks. But, say you’ve made a grave mistake—and realized it quickly: Most couples in this situation would seek an annulment.
“The average person with a 60-day marriage would be talking with their lawyer about an annulment,” divorce lawyer Raoul Felder told the Huffington Post. “Legally, this arrangement is based on fraud—meaning it needs corroboration and witnesses to back it up.” In the case of Kim and Kris, he wagers, the couple probably didn’t want to invite prying eyes to explain what, exactly, went wrong.
One key difference between an annulment and a divorce? The former is a legal procedure which cancels a marriage—it’s as though it never technically existed or was valid, a claim one party can make on a variety of grounds. A divorce, on the other hand, is a legal dissolution of the marriage, and usually divides the marital assets and debts.
So, Who Keeps the Bling?
The Kardashian-Humphries dissolution is a perfect example (writ large) of all the legal loose ends that need to be tied up during divorce proceedings: Who keeps the (in this case, 20.5 carat) ring? Who gets the rest of the existing assets? And is either party legally obligated to pay spousal support to the other going forward?
First, the bling: Legally considered a “gift of contemplation,” meaning contemplation of marriage, if the marriage takes place, the ring is the bride’s to keep. If it doesn’t, the husband-who-wasn’t may have an argument to get it back.
Then there’s “spousal support”—also known as “alimony” or “maintenance”—the payments or transfers of money or assets from one spouse to another after divorce.
The goal of spousal support laws, which differ by state, are to prevent a spouse from suffering a decrease in his or her standard of living as a result of divorce. For example, during the course of a marriage, one spouse may have been out of the workforce for such a long time that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to land a job that would afford her the same standard of living—at least in the short-term. Spousal support aims to make up for that difference.
And while it may seem like alimony is par for the course in divorce (in part thanks to watching it play out on TV, or in Tinseltown), only 10-15% of all divorces or separations actually involve any form of spousal support.
Who Gets Spousal Support—and Why?
Maintenance is usually awarded based on two factors: Contract and, in many states, need.
First, since all states hold that receiving it is a personal right—meaning spousal support is essentially a possession—a spouse can also waive his right to it. Typically that would be decided in a prenup contract.
If a spouse does opt to receive spousal support in the event of divorce, many states require that she demonstrate need. In other words, a recipient must prove that she’s not able to provide her own financial support, and doesn’t have enough property or assets to be able to meet her needs. (One commonly disputed area of spousal support, of course, is defining needs vs. wants.)
Then spousal support is awarded one of two ways—in the short-term or the long-term, known legally as “temporary maintenance” or “permanent maintenance.”
How this breaks down hinges on, in large part, how long you’re married and where you live: For example, in New York state, if a marriage is short-term, and both spouses make about the same amount, maintenance probably won’t be awarded by a court.
Other factors a judge will consider include the existing assets of each spouse, their short- and long-term earning potential, the tax ramifications of the divorce, whether there are children from the relationship, and who those children will live with going forward.
In the case of Kardashian vs. Humphries, even though he makes far less than Kim, it’s unlikely a court would decide that Kris’s brief marriage would qualify him to a chunk of change from her coffers.
And by signing a prenup, she was at least able to protect herself financially—if not from the rest of the fallout the whole world has tuned in to watch. But that, perhaps, is the price of being a Kardashian.
Image Credit: Flickr/Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer