Well, that seemed ... quick.
Former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and supermodel Gisele Bundchen announced they had “finalized” their divorce after 13 years of marriage on Friday, just a few weeks after media reports said they’d hired lawyers. So how could such a high-profile split be finalized so swiftly?
Legal experts said Friday the couple most likely had a prenuptial agreement, which could make their multimillion dollar divorce fairly straightforward.
“I’m very much assuming there was a prenuptial agreement involved,” said Jacqueline Newman, a Manhattan divorce lawyer and the author of “The New Rules of Divorce: Twelve Secrets to Protecting Your Wealth, Health and Happiness,” in a phone interview.
“This probably was not an overly complex negotiation” if there was a prenup, said Newman, managing partner at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP, who, like all the lawyers interviewed by the Globe for this story, was not involved with the Brady-Bundchen divorce proceedings.
Prenups serve a useful purpose for many wealthy, high-profile individuals, Newman added, because “the majority of things [in the event of divorce] are already determined before they got married.”
“Celebrities, business owners, they have to think about a lot of different things, so it’s very smart for them to have things worked out before getting married,” Newman said. “They want to be in a situation where they don’t have to litigate in court, or in the press.”
Donald C. Schiller, a Chicago divorce attorney whose client roster has included Juanita Jordan, the former wife of Michael Jordan, also believes Brady and Bundchen likely had a prenup. But he noted that such agreements don’t always preclude legal wrangling.
He said one concern for divorcing celebrities, ever watchful of their images, is unflattering information that could come to light amid the legal process.
“The wealthy and famous do not want their lives discussed except how they want it to be portrayed,” Schiller said via email. “The amounts and terms of many settlements are affected by the uncomplimentary facts that if disclosed portray a spouse contrary to the image they’ve created for themselves.”
And, Schiller continued, just because Brady and Bundchen have said in statements that their divorce is “finalized” doesn’t mean that’s the last word on the split.
“A divorce ending the marriage may be final, but rulings on custody, support, attorney’s fees obligations and other issues may have been reserved for further hearing or negotiations on many other issues,” Schiller wrote.
Nevertheless, attorney Andrea Vacca, owner of the Vacca Family Law Group in Manhattan, said the fact that the divorce was finalized fairly quickly speaks to the utility of a prenuptial pact.
“The fact that Tom and Gisele have let it be known that they have already reached an agreement on all issues and will be filing for divorce is the perfect example of how straightforward a divorce can be when you have a well negotiated and well-drafted prenup,” Vacca said via email. “It’s likely that the prenup clearly defined what assets were considered separate property (and would be retained by each party) and clearly defined what would be considered a marital asset and exactly how those assets would be divided.”
Those assets, Vacca continued, could include their homes and whatever else they jointly own.
“There are probably trusts set up as well as part of their estate planning and the terms of those trusts will be honored in any divorce,” said Vacca. “Child support and custody would not be covered under the terms of the prenup because the children had not been born at the time Tom and Gisele married. So, it’s likely that those are the main issues that needed to be negotiated.”
Vacca said she doesn’t expect drawn-out court proceedings.
“I don’t expect there to be any motions or court filings or hearings in the coming months,” Vacca said. “The agreement they reached will be accepted by the judge and those terms will become part of the Judgment of Divorce. This could be the last we hear about this divorce, which is a beautiful thing when you consider there are children involved and they won’t need to be dragged into a battle between their parents.”
Still, either Brady or Bundchen may make a cameo in a Florida courtroom, according to Morghan Leia Richardson, a partner and co-chair of the matrimonial and family law practice at Tarter, Krinsky & Drogin, LLP in Manhattan.
“Reports suggest that they will simply file their paperwork in Florida, which does typically require a brief court appearance from only one of the two divorcing spouses to confirm that the divorce is resolved,” Richardson said via email.
Richardson said Florida is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning marital assets aren’t automatically divided fifty-fifty. Rather, she said, a judge would consider factors including respective contributions to the assets and the length of the marriage.
Another interesting element of the split, Richardson said, is that Brady and Bundchen reportedly worked with a divorce mediator to come to an agreement.
“Divorce mediation is an excellent way for couples to come up with more creative divorce agreements than you might get from traditional lawyer negotiations,” Richardson said. “This would likely help in a custody situation that will have to accommodate Tom’s football-afflicted schedule. People need creative custody schedules when they have substantial travel.”
But whether a divorce is quick or drags on for years, it’s a difficult life event that takes time to process.
“[S]ometimes, when I have clients who speed through the divorce process they end up with ‘buyer’s remorse,’ where they later question decisions they made as the divorce sets in and they are left with the results of their agreement,” Richardson wrote.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.