Donald Trump’s Divorces and CA Divorce Law

By | November 20, 2016

Our next president, Mr. Donald Trump, has quite a history with divorces. Two ex-wives and billions of dollars makes for a couple interesting divorce headlines. Several media outlets are trying to get their hands on sealed documents from his first divorce, but judges are saying that there’s no reason to allow the unsealing of confidential information. Regardless, enough information has come out for us to understand bits and pieces. This article will examine his divorces and how they would play our under California law.

Donald Trump’s Wives

Mr. Trump is only the second president to take office after having gone through a divorce (Ronald Regan was first). He is the first to have gone through multiple divorces prior to the presidency. In 1977, he married Ivana Zelnickova, only to divorce her 15 years later in 1992 to be with Marla Maples, who he married in 1993. Then again, in 1999, he divorced Marla Maples. Now he’s married to Melania Knavs.

Donald Trump Divorces California Family Law Applied

Sharing His Assets in the Divorces

A couple of media organizations are trying to unseal the confidential details in the 26-year old divorce case of Donald and Ivana. This has led to both parties filing separate motions to ask the judge to reject the unsealing of the divorce. While it certainly is a private matter between the former spouses and shouldn’t be dredged up because gossip, seeing how Mr. Trump dealt with his divorce and division of assets helps us get a better idea of what he is like as an individual. This is especially true because Donald Trump was already considering running for president back in the late 90’s.

Now, for those who watch a lot of drama television. Trumps divorces remind me of that TV show called “Revenge”. The Grayson family members were the socialites to know in the Hamptons. Spoiler alert: towards the end of the show, The Grayson mom and pop get a nasty divorce. The wife, who was not born into wealth, took Governor Grayson for all he had in their divorce, or something like that. Back to reality: similar to that show, Donald’s first wife Ivana was able to challenge the post-nuptial and failed; but, ended up walking away with more than she should have, if the post-nuptial agreement had held up in court. Because of that, Donald learned to be even more careful in his prenuptial agreement with second wife, Marla. These are the things that we know about each of his two divorces:

1992 Divorce with Ivana

  • Donald claimed that he got bored with the marriage and that Ivana talked about business too much[1]
  • Donald had an affair with Marla Maples while still married to Ivana
  • Divorce documents state that Ivana claimed that Donald was verbally cruel and demeaned her
  • They fought a lot over child custody of Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric
  • Ivana claimed that Donald stated a lower value of his worth, which left her with less than she should have gotten
  • They couldn’t decide over division of gifts, like furs and cars
  • Ivana received: $14 million in cash settlement, the 45-room mansion in Connecticut worth $14 million, an apartment at Trump Plaza, and the use of Donald’s Palm Beach Mansion every year in the month of March.
  • Ivana also received $300,000 in child support and $350,000 in alimony.
  • Reportedly, Ivana had claimed that Trump raped her. However, any evidence of that testimony is missing.

1999 Divorce with Marla

  • Donald filed for divorce in New York. The claimed reason is that the two were incompatible.
  • The signed pre-nuptial agreement said that if the couple divorced within 5 years, then Maples would get a small percentage (about $5 million). Whereas, if the couple divorced after 5 years (which is the case), then Marla can be awarded by the state court up to 50% of Trump’s income. It also said that if Marla contests the contract and she loses, she’ll have to pay all of his legal fees.
  • Marla walked away with only $2 million and $25,000 a month in alimony
  • Donald paid child support and paid for their daughter’s education

CA Community Property Laws Applied to Trump’s Divorces

Both of these divorces were filed with the New York divorce court, which has different laws than California. Had they been filed in CA, our community property laws would have applied and divided up the assets differently.

  1. “The hard part was the kids,” Trump stressed to PEOPLE. “They’re so young. They didn’t understand. I tried to explain. Ivana and I didn’t fight, so they didn’t see it coming.” The post-nuptial agreement said that Ivana would get custody of their 3 children. If this had been in California, it may not have turned out that way. Marital settlement agreements created by the couple would hold up in California court, but when it comes to children, the judge would likely push both parents to stay involved with the children.
  2. California family court presumes that joint custody is the best option to start with. New York does not aim to grant joint custody. Oddly enough, New York does not allow joint child custody and California does. That may actually be a good thing for them in New York considering that on the Howard Stern Show in April 2005, Donald Trump said, “I like kids. I mean, I won’t do anything to take care of them. I’ll supply funds and she’ll take care of the kids. It’s not like I’m gonna be walking the kids down Central Park.”
  3. Reportedly, Ivana and Donald argued over who gets the gifts of fur and cars, this wouldn’t have happened in California. This was probably left out of the prenuptial agreement, filed in New York. New York’s law divides property equitably; this doesn’t necessarily divide the property equally. California is a community property state[2]; this means that the furs and cars would have been divided equally between the two parties.
  4. New York was the last state to pass the no-fault divorce law, in 2010. It would have been difficult for Ivana to file divorce from Trump, or for Trump to file divorce from Marla if there was no evidence of fault by the other spouse. California, on the other hand, was the first state to pass this no-fault divorce policy. Filing for divorce in California would have been more easily granted. When Ivana filed for divorce, she claimed in her deposition that her husband raped her.
  5. The respective couples have to be living separately for a minimum of 12 months in New York before filing for divorce. California doesn’t have a minimal separation period before a spouse can file for divorce.
  6. The waiting period for a divorce to be granted, from the time the petition was filed, is 6 months in California and 12 months in New York.

You might not think it, but where you file for divorce may have a serious impact on your future; of course, that depends on what marital issues are most important to you. Donald Trump was able to protect a majority of his assets by getting his wives to sign prenuptial agreements. Being a businessman, Donald got the better end of the divorces by filing in New York. If the couples had divorced in California courts, the ex-wives may have walked away with a better deal than what they actually received. If you want to know more about California’s laws, read our webpage on California Divorce or our blog post about no-fault divorces in California.

[1] The Empire Strikes Back! In 1997 book, Trump dishes on ex-wives

[2] California Family Law Code § 760

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