On Monday, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott filed for divorce from her second husband, Dan Jewett, a former science teacher. The couple were married for 18 months.
The two petitioned to dissolve their marriage at King County Superior Court in Washington State, noting that “spousal support was not needed,” according to Bloomberg.
Scott, who divorced her first husband, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, in 2019, became the richest woman in the world for a time when Amazon stock surged in 2020. She’s since given away more than $12 billion, leaving her current net worth at an estimated $28.9 billion.
It’s unclear whether Scott and Jewett had a prenup, but Bloomberg reports there’s a mutually understood contract regarding how properties will be divided.
Prenups “serve to protect the more monied spouse, as well as to create transparency and simplify the process in the event the marriage does not work out,” says Erica J. Lubans, Esq, partner at Wasser, Cooperman & Mandles.
The ultra-wealthy often “fail to do a prenuptial agreement,” says Bernard E. Clair, co-chairman of Cohen Clair Lans Greifer Thorpe & Rottenstreich LLP, a law firm that’s represented a number of high profile divorces including Kanye West and Judith Giuliani.
With or without a prenup, the finances of billionaires are very different from pretty much everyone else.
Ultra-wealthy individuals often have extensive teams of representatives working on their cases, ranging from lawyers and business managers to financial advisors and accountants, explains Lubans. They work together to cover all bases and protect their clients’ assets.
Even with a whole squad of experts, though, billionaires still make the same mistakes as other couples seeking divorce, such as failing to communicate effectively or having unrealistic expectations, Lubans says. That’s why prenups can be so important: They often help lay the groundwork for difficult discussions that occur during divorces, she adds.
It was also uncertain whether Scott had a prenup when she got divorced from Bezos after 25 years of marriage—a relationship that began years before he became one of the richest men in the world— though it was reported by TMZ that they didn’t have one.
Prenup or not, divorce proceedings are typically faster for billionaires because there’s not as much back and forth about money. “When you’re representing big money—billionaires—it’s often very, very fast,” Clair says. “Because how much money can a person actually fight over?”
The red carpet is rolled out in the courtroom, also helping to speed up proceedings. “The ultra wealthy get quicker access to the court system,” Clair says. “And they are given, in my experience, a lot more leeway with the judges, the court clerks, and the law secretaries.”
This time around, Scott finds herself in the role of the moneyed spouse—and her relationship with Jewett was much shorter. “If there was no postnup, or prenup, he’d get zippo, as far as I’m concerned,” Clair says.
“Time served” Clair says, is something judges consider when deciding who gets what in a divorce. It also helps that they don’t have kids, adds Lubans.
While neither lawyer has been briefed on the specifics of Jewett and Scott’s separation agreement, they both agree on a few things: the stakes will be lower for Scott this time around, the whole process should be over quickly, and Jewett probably will not get a significant settlement.
He is “likely to experience a bit of a lifestyle step down,” says Lubans.
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