The Power of the Post-Nup: Taking a Closer Look at the Spitzer Divorce Settlement

Now that most of the dust has settled from news of former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer’s divorce settlement, it seems like a good time to address the details.

For those unfamiliar with the situation, Eliot Spitzer served as New York’s 54th Governor and was only in office for a little over a year before a sex scandal was brought to light, forcing Spitzer into resignation. News broke in March of 2008 that Spitzer was a frequent patron of an elite escort service in New York City. Details continued to emerge, including allegations that Spitzer was involved with a prostitution ring in the city. A memorable image from Spitzer’s press conferences was his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, who stood, stone-faced, by her husband throughout the whole ordeal.

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Silda Wall Spitzer’s allegiance and loyalty to her husband became another storyline. Then, in 2013, Spitzer announced that their marriage was ending, and the divorce was filed in January of 2014. Between the initial scandal breaking and other details emerging in the following years, the question was definitely not why, but more of how the divorce would play out.

On April 26, 2014 news broke that Eliot Spitzer and Silda Wall Spitzer reached a divorce settlement that would ultimately distribute $7.5 million to Silda. There were additional distributions; Wall Spitzer will also be retaining the Fifth Avenue marital home, a $240,000 annual amount until her death, a new car every five years, and an undisclosed amount for both entertainment/activities as well as charities (Source: New York Daily News). Tabloids wasted no time in reporting bits and pieces of the settlement details, and many New Yorkers weighed in on forums and articles to voice their own opinion on the settlement. People wondered how the former spouses came to a settlement so quickly and if it was a “settlement,” why Eliot Spitzer is paying his now ex-wife so much money.

The first thing to know is that the Spitzer’s entered into a post-nuptial agreement. A post-nup is an agreement entered into after the couple has been married and serves to address assets, liabilities and other issues in the event of divorce. Although some details of the agreement have gone public, many of the details have remained private. It is unknown whether Wall Spitzer demanded the post-nup and, if she did, when everything would have started. Many high-profile and celebrity divorces tend to drag out in court, especially depending on the reason for the divorce. Here, divorce was filed in January of 2014 and the initial post-nup was reported to have been filed in February. Anyone can reach their own conclusions on the timeline – whether it moved quickly because the former spouses were cooperative, whether one was willing to give in to the other, and so on. However, the result for the Spitzer family can once again emphasizes the importance of being able to reach an agreement that addresses each person’s concerns.

Reaching a settlement through a post-nuptial agreement can speed up the divorce process and keep things out of the courtroom. Because much of the Spitzer’s individual process was kept private, we can only speculate as to when discussions about the post-nup began. This author would prefer to avoid that type of speculation and concentrate on the benefit of making a “deal” that suits both parties.

As far as why Eliot Spitzer will be paying out so much money to his ex-wife, the post-nup made clear that Wall Spitzer would receive an appropriate amount to maintain the standard of living to which she has grown accustomed. It would again be speculation as to why the specific amounts were decided on. Considerations for a valid agreement include full financial disclosure, independent review by counsel and full and fair participation in the process leading to the agreement. It is likely that in this case Spitzer’s transgressions were taken into consideration. Again, one can only speculate if this was a way to set things right.

After the scandal first broke, the Spitzer’s were on a rollercoaster ride for the public to see. In this case, the parties used the post-nup to stay out of the courtroom and move on with their lives.