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Hollywood splits hold lessons for Virginia spouses

Even those who aren't interested in Hollywood power couples may want to take note of the pending divorce between Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck. The couple's recent divorce filing may be impacted by the fact that it occurred slightly more than a decade after their marriage, which may be important under California family law.

Legal analysts noted that the long-term nature of the marriage, along with the possible existence of a prenuptial agreement, could affect any alimony that the court awards. Spouses who make less money than their partners can request California courts to award higher alimony amounts or impose longer alimony terms if they were married for more than 10 years. In addition, many observers have noted that prenuptial agreements can be just as important for less wealthy couples as they are in high-asset divorces.

Prenuptial agreements sometimes contain provisions pursuant to which spouses who have earned more agree to pay their exes a certain amount based upon the number of years that they were married. However, such arrangements might be deemed invalid by a court in an instance where one of the parties failed to disclose all assets or if one was forced to sign it under duress. As a result, people are are advised to be forthcoming with each other and negotiate such an agreement well in advance of the wedding date.

Although they help some spouses maintain healthier relationships during divorce proceedings, prenuptial agreements aren't necessarily ironclad. They are subject to the general rules of contract law, including fraud, and thus it is advisable for those contemplating one to obtain separate legal representation before such an agreement is signed.

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