Melania Trump could reportedly be on the receiving end of a substantial payout if she were to divorce her husband Donald Trump, writes the Mirror.
As is the case with all first couples, the US President and his wife, the FLOTUS, have been facing constant scrutiny regarding their personal life, and never more so than following the contentious US election.
In the wake of allegations citing a former White House aide that Melania Trump is "counting minutes" before she can divorce Donald Trump, who has been projected to lose his reelection bid to Democratic candidate and purported President-elect Joe Biden, both high-profile divorce attorneys and the media have been speculating on the marital arrangement between the first couple.
Third Time Lucky?
Donald Trump - a successful businessman who had already amassed a huge fortune - met his future third wife Melania Knauss, a model born in Slovenia when it had been part of Yugoslavia, at a fashion week party in 1998.
When the two finally decided to tie the knot in January 2005, Trump, with the experience of two previous marriages and divorces in the rear view mirror, made his future spouse sign a prenuptial agreement.
During his two previous divorces, Donald Trump mostly adhered to the details of the agreements, although first wife Ivana Trump contested it.
According to Town and Country magazine, she reportedly got $14 million, a New York apartment, a Connecticut mansion, and $650,000 annually for alimony and child support.
Second wife Marla Maples contested her prenup as well, and was said to have been awarded a sum of around $2 million.
A marital arrangement between a power couple, that can include money, real estate, or anything deemed valuable enough to protect, can be amended over the course of a marriage to match one’s growing wealth or expanding family.
As the White House suddenly factored into the life of the Trumps, most likely there were re-negotiations of their initial prenup agreement, particularly by the newly-minted FLOTUS, claim legal experts.
Jacqueline Newman, a managing partner and divorce litigation specialist at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, was cited by Business Insider as saying that Melania Trump likely "upped the terms" before moving into the White House.
“My guess is real estate will be involved. Obviously, he has the apartment in the city that was his before the marriage, and I can pretty much guarantee he’s not giving it to her. But in situations where I’ve dealt with very high-income, high-asset cases, the moneyed spouse will purchase an apartment for the non-moneyed spouse and the children to live in,” said Newman.
Moreover, as Melania Trump’s son Barron Trump is only 14, any divorce agreement would also focus on the teens's living arrangements while he's under 21.
A book about the First Lady, penned by Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan, claims Melania Trump used her husband’s election victory to renegotiate the conditions of her prenup.
The FLOTUS had reportedly hesitated to move into the White House straight away, and lingered in New York so the couple's son Barron could finish the school year, while this might have also granted her time to hammer out “proof in writing” regarding her offspring’s future.
In her book The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, Jordan wrote:
“She wanted proof in writing that when it came to financial opportunities and inheritance, Barron would be treated as more of an equal to Trump’s oldest three children."
Peter Stambleck of New York-based legal firm Aronson, Mayefsky & Sloan, was quoted by Town and Country as saying that he would have recommended a title controls prenup.
"It makes it very clear that, in the event of divorce, everything in his name will be his and everything in her name will be hers. Billionaires have complicated asset structures. They have shell companies, LLCs, investments in other companies, and it’s very, very complicated,” he says.
The expert adds that Melania Trump would likely be allowed to keep any jewellery she had received during the marriage.
Asked whether the POTUS could have put in a prenup that Melania Trump would have access to the Mar-a-Lago residence for a month in December, Stambleck responded that that might be the case.
“He could say that on 72-hour notice she’ll have use of the plane”, he said.
As for the first couple’s son Barron, Melania Trump, as most likely primary caretaker, could receive a lot of cash to look after the 14-year-old, says Jacqueline Newman, managing partner at Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd.
"My guess is that she would get primary custodial rights and he would get access whenever he happens to be in town. In this situation, if she has $50 million, she can afford to buy something. But $50 million, while it’s definitely a lot of money, in New York City, for what she’s used to, she wouldn’t be able to replicate what she has now. He probably had a good sense of what kind of lifestyle they’d be living, so I would imagine the payout would be fairly generous," the magazine quotes the legal expert as saying.
As for the speculations regarding whether Melania Trump had renegotiated the marriage agreement after she received more “leverage” once the couple had entered the White House after Donald Trump’s triumph in the 2016 presidential elections, Thomas Kretchmar, associate at Chemtob Moss & Forman, added:
“Without speculating on any particular case, it’s certainly true that spouses can, during their marriage, modify the terms of an existing prenuptial agreement in response to a material event. It is done in a document called a postnuptial agreement. Sometimes postnups are used as a stopgap to an eventual divorce. Other times they are genuinely just a revision or refinement of existing rights in light of a change in the spouses’ circumstances.”
‘Transactional Marriage’ Claims
Rumours have long circulated about the stability of Melania Trump’s marriage to Donald Trump.
"Melania is counting every minute until he is out of office and she can divorce," said Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former Trump aide and US Apprentice star, Omarosa Manigault Newman wrote in 2018 book "Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House", cited by The Mail.
"If Melania were to try to pull the ultimate humiliation and leave while he's in office, he would find a way to punish her," Newman adds.
Earlier, former FLOTUS aide Stephanie Wolkoff told BBC Newsnight the first couple have separate bedrooms in the White House and that it is a "transactional marriage," claiming that Melania Trump had negotiated a post-nuptial agreement to ensure that son Barron would receive an equal share of the Trump fortune.
Donald Trump has five children from three marriages: Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump with first wife Ivana Trump; Tiffany Trump with Marla Maples; and Barron Trump with Melania Trump.
In the wake of newly-circulating speculations about the likelihood of her divorce from Donald Trump after the US presidential elections in the US, Melania Trump has refrained from making any public comments.
Trump adviser Jason Miller, seemingly commenting on the divorce allegations, claimed that "the FLOTUS story is also fake news".