Nick Laham/Getty Images
by Joal Ryan | Fri., Dec. 25, 2009 12:00 PM
Nick Laham/Getty Images
If Elin Nordegren files for divorce, and if she seeks a bigger payday than agreed to in the prenup, then Mrs. Tiger Woods will not be doing greedy.
She'll be doing business.
"You're saying to Tiger's attorneys, if we don't get what we want, we're going to challenge the prenup," divorce and family-law attorney Barry Finkel tells us. "…It's business."
As we were saying…
We asked Finkel to walk us through possible scenarios for a Woods-Nordegren divorce. Finkel practices in Florida, which is key because that's where the Woodses had their Thanksgiving blowout, and in our book, forever established their residency. Home is, after all, where the biggest fights are.
In Florida divorces, equitable distribution rules. The concept means a couple's stuff can be divided 50-50—unless it's not. In other words, halvies are not guaranteed.
Conventional wisdom says Nordegren will file in California, where the couple has a home, and where even-steven community property is the way. But Finkel reminds that the couple's prenup might have already established that no matter where the divorce is filed, the laws of Florida (or whatever other state was agreed to) are applied.
Another item a prenup would have locked in, of course, is what it'll cost to get out. One report, the lowball version, says Nordegren was guaranteed $20 million if the marriage lasted 10 years. Another report, the ka-ching! version, put the prenup's worth to Nordegren at $300 million, or half of Woods' reported $600 million fortune.
While it seems like prenups are challenged every day, they are, as a rule, upheld every day, too. According to Finkel, the only instances that'll get a prenup tossed is if: (a) the agreement is proved to have been made under duress; or, (b) one party is found to have misrepresented what his superstar self was worth. As you'll notice there is no option for: (c) one party overly enjoyed the company of cocktail waitresses.
"She can't come in, and say he cheated on me, I want to challenge the prenup," Finkel says.
No, she can't come into the court, and say that. But her lawyers don't have to go into court to make their client's wishes known. Says Finkel: "They're going to try to get her as much as they can."
And that goes double (quadruple? quintuple?) where the couple's two children are concerned. Finkel wouldn't guestimate how much child support Woods might end up owing, except for saying the two words no litigant wants to hear: "a lot."
The children, frankly, give Nordegren all sorts of leverage, and not even in an evil, you'll-never-see-them-again way. If Nordegren pursues a custody case, then everything that couldn't come out in a divorce trial in a no-fault state like Florida (or California)—the cheating, the cocktail waitress, etc.—could come out in a courtroom.
All of this leaves Woods, he of the dwindling endorsements and on-hold golf career, facing a decision: "The key to this case is to not clutter the court file with evidence of their lives," Finkel says. "…There's value in keeping this out of the public eye. Is he going to have to pay more than what's in the prenup agreement? Probably."
He'll be doing business. Just like his wife.
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