Robert De Niro Can Thank His PreNup
Those in New York are well aware of some of our more famous residents and their highly publicized personal affairs. Robert De Niro has had a rough time of it in the battle over some of his assets with his estranged wife, Grace Hightower, in their pending divorce. Fortunately for him, a judge recently ruled that he will not be required to divide his business assets with his wife that she has claimed as marital assets.
Robert De Niro and Grace Hightower met in 1987 when she was working as a hostess at the famous Mr. Chow restaurant in London and later married in 1997. They share two children.
In 2018, De Niro filed for divorce from Hightower after their 20-year marriage, including a divorce and subsequent remarriage. During their hearing, both lawyers blamed the other party for extravagance while downplaying their own client’s spending behaviors. Ms. Hightower has argued that a prenuptial agreement struck by the two in 2004 entitled her to half of the actor’s earnings while they were together, claiming them as marital assets. But the court disagreed.
The Court’s Ruling
Back in February of this year, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Matthew Cooper concluded that the prenuptial agreement established that the income earned by De Niro during their marriage, whether the income was derived from acting, production, or any other business ventures, constitutes separate property. Now, an appellate court has upheld those findings, and Ms. Hightower will not be entitled to half this income.
Equitable Distribution in New York
In the state of New York, marital assets are divided by equitable distribution. While equitable distribution is not necessarily equal, but determined by the court considering many different factors, a prenuptial agreement will often supersede this. In De Niro’s case, the preputial agreement forged in 2004 did not allow for his income from various ventures and investments during their marriage to be included as marital assets as it usually would be in a standard divorce.
Although Hightower was not awarded half of De Niro’s income assets, she will not go without. She was awarded $1 million annually in alimony until De Niro’s death or her own remarriage. Mr. De Niro was also ordered to pay her $6 million for the purchase of a new home.
What Determines Marital Vs. Separate Assets?
One of the most fundamental things that must be determined in a divorce is the identification and allocation of property. Marital property includes any assets acquired by either spouse during the time they were married. Separate property is anything owned by each spouse before coming into the marriage. While each spouse will keep their own separate assets, equitable distribution provides for division of marital assets.
But the purpose of prenuptial agreements is to predetermine and agree how assets and liabilities will be divided outside equitable distribution in the future event of a divorce. They can also refer to spousal support or other financial matters in case of a divorce. The only things that a prenuptial agreement cannot do is make provisions for child support, child custody, or parenting time.
Would You Benefit From a Prenuptial Agreement? Prenuptial agreements are no longer just the realm of celebrity divorces. They can be beneficial for almost anyone going into a marriage. In today’s financial landscape, we are seeing more second and third marriages, children from previous marriages, and individuals who would like to ensure that assets and liabilities are kept separate in the event of a divorce. If you would like to discuss how a prenuptial agreement may benefit you, contact NYC Divorce Firm to schedule a consultation.