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New York prenup case: Whose apartment is it anyway?

Every lawyer knows nuances in agreements can become legal disagreements especially when money is at stake. A New York judge recently sided with a wife at a Manhattan divorce hearing over asset division in a prenuptial agreement. The husband argued the contract should be reinterpreted.

The husband in the divorce dispute grew to a record-producing celebrity with the discovery of 1980s hip-hop group Run-D.M.C. Cory Robbins remains a recognizable figure in the music business as head of his own label.

The prenuptial included a provision that awarded Robbins a $1 million credit for his financial contribution to the couple's marital home. The agreement stipulated the money had to be applied to an equity or mortgage loan.

Court records said Robbins financed the $8 million property with loans against personal assets acquired before the couple's marriage. Robbins told the judge the loans should be counted as a mortgage since the money was spent on the marital residence.

Robbins commingled separate assets with marital property when he secured loans for the apartment. In most cases, once personal assets are mixed with marital ones, the property is no longer owned by a single spouse.

The prenuptial agreement limited the conditions under which Robbins could take a credit. The apartment was financed by loans that neither qualified as equity nor mortgage loans.

The judge ruled that Sarah was entitled to half the apartment's equity. For going against the terms of the prenuptial agreement, Cory Robbins got a scolding from the judge and no credit for the payments he made toward the property.

The judge's written decision said the prenuptial agreement was set up to give the husband an unfair advantage. The contract wording was upheld as it was written, minus a new interpretation.

Prenuptial contracts like divorce agreements are rarely changed after they are finalized. Divorce attorneys advise spouses to review and understand contracts fully before putting pen to paper.

Source:  newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com, "Music executive who signed Run-D.M.C. loses in prenup dispute" Joseph Ax, May. 01, 2013

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