Prenups on the increase in Wisconsin.

AuthorPribek, Jane

Byline: Jane Pribek

Nicole Kidman reportedly asked for a clause in her prenuptial agreement stating that if husband Keith Urban uses illegal drugs, he will not receive a cent of her millions.

And Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen allegedly put a clause in their prenup providing that if either one strayed, he or she would owe the other $4 million.

The first celebrity union is still intact. The second ended with an ugly custody battle, but the tabloids were silent as to whether the no-cheating clause was ever enforced.

These high-profile prenups certainly offer entertainment value. But they don't reflect the reality of most family law practices, according to a pair of Wisconsin attorneys who together have been drafting prenuptial agreements here for well over four decades.

However, there is one thing celebrity family law and Wisconsin family law do have in common -- prenups are on the rise.

I do a lot prenups, and I'm seeing more than I ever have before, said family lawyer Patricia K. Ballman, of Quarles & Brady LLP in Milwaukee.

Ballman does not see prenups that cover things like pets or chores. But I do find that they are getting more specific on matters such as long-term health insurance and health-care decisions for when the parties are older, and contributing to certain funds, etc. People are planning for getting old more than they ever used to.

One good reason to forgo provisions outlining who will bear the responsibility for trivial matters like taking out the trash -- judges don't want to see them.

In the rare instance when a client is adamant about such things, Ballman puts it in a separate agreement that's not meant to see the inside of a courtroom.

Drafting tips

Ruth J. Irvings, of Nelson, Irvings and Waeffler SC ( in Wauwatosa, says prenups became a part of her practice in 1986, with the issuance of Button v. Button, 131 Wis. 2d 84, 388 N.W. 546 2d (1986).

That was the same year the Wisconsin Marital Property Act took effect, causing a pronounced bump in the popularity of prenups.

Since then, Irvings has had a regular, steady stream of clients seeking them -- although it's by no means what she does everyday, all day long.

Despite the well-known statistic of 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, national estimates suggest that just 5 to 10 percent of engaged couples seek prenuptial agreements -- although that's hard to quantify, given that these documents aren't filed publicly, except for...

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