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Lessons from a Celebrity Divorce: The Importance of a Prenuptial Agreement

August 18, 2021

By: Crystal Espinosa Buit

Celebrity divorces are always a fascinating topic. Over the last year, you may have seen news reports concerning Kelly Clarkson’s divorce from her husband that discuss the couple’s purported prenuptial agreement. Most recently, reports indicated that the music star was ordered by a judge to pay approximately $200,000 per month to her husband in temporary spousal support and temporary child support.

You may wonder why Clarkson would be required to pay such a hefty sum – or any support at all – if in fact there is a valid prenuptial agreement in place. You may ask, "Isn’t the purpose of such an agreement to keep one from having to pay spousal support?" Interestingly, if their divorce was pending in Florida, a similar result may have occurred. The reason as to why centers around the following key term: “temporary.”

Specifically, under current Florida law, there are certain rights and interests that may not be waived in a prenuptial agreement. Among these is temporary spousal support, even if, ultimately, a prenuptial agreement is enforced and, with it, a waiver of all future spousal support once the divorce is final. The reason, centered on long-standing public policy in Florida, stems from a 1972 Florida Supreme Court case (Belcher v. Belcher, 271 So. 2d 7), where the court held that, until the divorce decree is entered by the court (thus legally ending the marriage), support owed from one spouse to another cannot be waived, so as to protect the needy spouse.

While Florida law regarding prenuptial agreements has evolved over the years, including to enforce waivers of spousal support contained in a valid nuptial agreement, Florida law continues to allow a needy spouse during the divorce proceeding to seek and receive temporary support prior to the divorce judgment being entered. See, e.g., Lashkajani v. Lashkajani, 911 So. 2d 1154 (Fla. 2005).

Similarly, there are other rights and interests in Florida that, for similar public policy reasons, also cannot be waived in a prenuptial agreement, such as child support and child timesharing (the latter of which requires the court to determine the best interests of the child at the time of the divorce).

What this recent celebrity divorce highlights, however, is the importance of nuptial agreements, particularly for high-net-worth individuals. Without a valid nuptial agreement, a spouse engaged in a divorce could face significant, long-term financial obligations like spousal support, which otherwise could have been waived or limited. Additionally, a nuptial agreement can protect a spouse’s assets and income earned during the marriage from being subject to division in the event of divorce.


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Crystal
Crystal Espinosa Buit devotes her practice to providing skilled and supportive legal representation for clients going through complicated and often highly emotional family law matters, including divorce, child support, child custody, alimony and family law litigation. She also has significant experience negotiating and drafting prenuptial and postnuptial agreements for couples seeking financial protection and peace of mind. Her clients include high-net-worth individuals, business executives, doctors, lawyers, professional athletes and other prominent professionals, as well as the spouses of such individuals.

A strong and compassionate advocate, Crystal knows every family is unique and no two cases are the same. She works tirelessly to find creative solutions that minimize conflict and suit each client’s best interests and individual needs. A wife and mother of two, Crystal also understands the difficult decisions her clients face, and she works closely with them to keep them informed and supported as they navigate uncharted territory and make important choices for themselves and their children.

With her training and experience in collaborative family law, Crystal believes that most couples and families can benefit from avoiding lengthy courtroom battles by resolving conflicts regarding issues like shared parenting time, child and spousal support, and property division through alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law. When litigation cannot be avoided, she and the firm’s other family law attorneys will zealously represent you and your interests in the courtroom.

An Orlando native, Crystal is an ardent supporter of her undergraduate alma mater, the University of Central Florida. She currently serves on its Alumni Association Board of Directors and was honored with the UCF Jefferson Award for Constituent Chapter Volunteer of the Year in recognition of her generosity and service to the university. Previously recognized by Florida Super Lawyers as a “Florida Rising Star,” Crystal graduated magna cum laude from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. While in law school, she was a member of the Florida Law Review and earned five Books Awards, including Interviewing & Counseling; Negotiation; and Family and Public Policy.
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