Tuesday, March 08, 2022

In re Marriage of Zucker (Cal. Ct. App. - March 4, 2022)

Divorce cases are always tough, and sometimes reveal disturbing facts that no one in their right mind would want to be made public. But this one is really at one end of the extreme in that regard. For that reason, I super strongly hope that the opinion will be amended at some point to take out some identifying details. If only because the public nature of the facts underlying this particular opinion are brutal to the litigants -- as well as to their children.

The case basically involves whether the prenuptial agreement that the spouses signed is enforceable. The ex-wife claims that it's not because she wasn't in the right mental space when she signed it, and the ex-husband says she was. Because the ex-wife's mental state is at issue, there's got to be at least some level of discussion of those particular details. Understandable.

That said, the opinion uses the full names of the spouses. It even includes the full names of their six children, all of whom are old enough to read -- and several of whom have easily identifiable names (sufficient, for example, for me to look up their Instagram and other social media accounts in around ten seconds). In short, the published opinion enables a reader to learn some incredibly personal details about particular individuals.

And, boy, are those details personal.

Check out just some of 'em:

"The parties met sometime in 1993, when Mark was 33 years old, and Kim was 29. Kim became pregnant in June 1993 and at Mark’s request had an abortion. After Kim became pregnant again in late 1993, Mark told her to terminate the pregnancy, but she refused to do so. Thereafter, in early January 1994, the parties discussed marriage. . . . 

The parties had disparate economic backgrounds. Mark is the cofounder and co-CEO of a hedge fund, [Name of Hedge Fund]. . . . Mark had a net worth of about $10 million and made about $2 million a year.

Kim had a history of psychological troubles. When she was 12, her parents divorced. Kim developed an eating disorder (anorexia), for which she was hospitalized. She attended and graduated from a public high school. After attending UCSD for part of a year . . . . In 1988, after leaving UCSD, Kim admitted herself to the Westwood Psychiatric Hospital for treatment of her eating disorder. After stealing a prescription pad and obtaining medication with it, she was transferred to a locked ward where she was raped at knifepoint. . . .

The PMA contained terms that were very unfavorable to Kim. Kim waived her community property interest; would receive a one-time payment of $10,000 upon moving out of the house; would receive limited spousal support of $6,000 per month, with modest increases; and waived any inheritance rights which would arise from Mark’s death during the marriage. The PMA set forth Kim’s net worth as approximately $242,000 and Mark’s as approximately $5.8 million. . . .

In June 1993, after Kim became pregnant the first time, she and Mark spoke about getting married. Mark spoke to Kim about the “general outlines” of the PMA in June “before she had her first abortion.” They had between five and 10 conversations about Mark’s net worth. He told her he was worth about $10 million to signal to her that he was worried about getting married without a prenuptial agreement.

When Kim told Mark she was pregnant the second time, he told her to have an abortion. They discussed alternatives to marriage, including that Kim would have the baby and they would not get married, or that Kim would have an abortion or put the baby up for adoption. Ultimately, Kim believed her options were to marry Mark with a PMA, to have an abortion, to have the baby and put the child up for adoption, or to raise the child as a single mother.

Kim scheduled an abortion for January 4, 1994, although she did not go through with it. At the time, Kim’s doctor noted that she was “distraught.” . . . About a week after Kim told Mark she did not go through with the abortion, they began to discuss marriage. Mark told her that he would not marry her without a PMA. Mark specified two options if she did not have an abortion. Kim could sign the PMA and Mark would consider, but not commit to, marriage, or Kim could have the baby on her own and Mark would financially support the child."

Let's assume for a moment that Mark and Kim were your parents. Would you want these facts described in a published opinion?! (Would you even want to know about them?) Particularly one that includes your (readily identifiable) name as well in a footnote?

I get that this is a messy divorce -- the spouses each spent seven figures in attorney's fees on it. For that reason, I imagine that the kids already know a fair piece about the background of their parents' marriage -- if only because of that 57 day (!) trial on the validity of the prenup.

But knowing something and having it disseminated to the world in a published opinion are two very different things.

This one might be much better off by deleting last names and taking out the names of the six kids.

Just sayin'.