An Open Letter to Cinderella: How to Divorce Prince Charming And Keep Some Money

Dear Cinderella,

You might be surprised that I'm writing you this letter, considering that you are one of the world's most prominent examples of a happy marriage. But, as a seasoned divorce attorney, I've learned to spot the ones whose marriages are on the way out--and frankly, Cinderella, I've seen that look in your eye.

You probably don't want to admit it. You're probably thinking, If I get a divorce from Prince Charming, will I be letting the world down? Will I be disillusioning thousands, nay millions of little girls whose dreams of finding fairy tale romance hinge on my prime example? Cinderella, we can only hope.

With this in mind, I'm going to advise you now as if you had wandered into my office, impractical shoes and all, asking "How do I divorce Prince Charming?"

Lesson One: Get a prenup.

I'm not going to sugar-coat this, Cinderella: You, like most ill-advised Disney princesses, have been operating under the assumption that a Prince will make you happy. I'm guessing based on the fact that you were roughly 16 when you got married, and that your decision to marry was doubtless driven by a desire to escape a life of indentured servitude, you were probably more focused on the door than you were on arranging a prenup.

I mean, let's be blunt here: Prince Charming has substantial assets, and this was probably part of the attraction. But, as you'll find out in the process of divorcing him, the Prince's assets--his royal inheritance etc.--are what we in the divorce business call "pre-marital assets." In other words, you can't touch them. Thus, like so many women before and after you, you were in a financially disadvantaged position at the start of the marriage and thought it would be rude to ask for a prenup, and now at the end of the marriage here you are in a financially disadvantaged position once again.

I know, it's unfair. Considering how you've spent your life looking after Prince Charming and your royal children, how you've smiled and waved when you were supposed to, fulfilled your responsibilities (even indulging his fantasies of having you dress up like a house wench and tickle his feet with your feather-duster)--even with all that, now you've been left in a position where you probably can't touch his royal monies. Such is the law--it's a prenup or nothing, for you.

Lesson Two: Commingle your assets.

Considering your lack of a prenup, my advice to you now is to secure some assets for yourself by "commingling." In effect, commingling assets means mixing joint money, or your personal accounts (for example, what you get from renting your father's house to those wicked stepsisters of yours) with your husband's inherited money (the palace bank account). The idea is to make it difficult for Prince Charming's lawyers to show clear separation of accounts in the court, therefore making a case that the money from said accounts should be split down the middle.

In short: open a joint bank account. Make big financial outlays (country house, jewels, angel investment in a Talking Mouse Circus) using mixed monies. Avoid making big joint purchases from your husband's inherited funds whenever possible, because you won't have any claim to those in the divorce. And so on.

Contrary to the widespread belief among legendary damsels in distress, marrying royalty isn't generally all it's cracked up to be. Without a prenup, frankly it doesn't matter that you caught him in three different broom closets with three different scullery maids last year; his pre-marital assets are still likely to stay with him.

Cinderella, you understand the complications of the fairy tale marriage; you, more than anyone, know what it really means to live "happily ever after." I urge you to take that knowledge, along with your glass slippers and your wits, to the bank.


James J. Sexton