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Zuckerberg wedding timing may prove advantageous in divorce

Weddings are always meant to be happy occasions. Most people in New York don't enter into marriage thinking it will end in a divorce that could result in a protracted fight over property and assets division. For those who do think ahead, though, there are prenuptial agreements. Then again, there can also be protection in the timing of the event.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, recently wed his longtime girlfriend. The marriage comes immediately after the company went public with stock shares and further escalated the Internet whiz in the ranks of the world's billionaires.

Some legal experts say that timing could prove to be a key means for Zuckerberg to protect his assets should the marriage eventually come to an end. That's because California, where the couple lives and was married, is a community property state. That generally means that assets accrued after a couple gets married are subject to being split 50-50 in a divorce. Since the Facebook initial public offering happened the day before the wedding, Zuckerberg's bump may be sheltered.

Whether the couple signed a prenuptial agreement that could modify the community property rules is unknown. A prenuptial agreement would typically spell out how assets brought to the marriage would be handled in a divorce, as well as how to divide assets generated in the course of the marriage. In this case Zuckerberg and his now-wife were together for about 9 years, having dated since they were both students at Harvard. The two were a couple and living together. Experts indicate that if the couple hadn't married and then split, she might have a potential claim to a greater share of Zuckerberg's current value. This has happened in other cases where the court awarded the longtime girlfriend a large amount of money in a negotiated settlement.

What this story attempts to show is that matters of property division in divorce can be complex. In New York, the law operates on the standard of equitable division. That means that property and assets in a divorce situation are divided by what a judge determines to be fair. That does not necessarily mean 50-50. To protect your interests and property, it's important to have confidence that you have a legal advocate who can articulate and represent the contributions of the parties to the marriage.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Zuckerberg's post-IPO wedding is smart legal move," Sarah Mcbride, Reuters, May 20, 2012