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When Andre “Dr. Dre” Young and Nicole Young announced their divorce in late August this year, the focus of most reports was on the prenuptial agreement: did they have one? What would happen if they did not? Could Nicole Young take half of Dr. Dre’s reported portfolio worth $800 million?

In the weeks since, the reports about the divorcing couple have devolved into something else entirely. Nicole Young has filed documents claiming Dr. Dre has not produced the original prenuptial agreement. She has alleged “rampant and repeated marital misconduct,” and is now demanding any paperwork that proves whether Dr. Dre fathered any children outside of their marriage. In mid-October, Dr. Dre’s business partner filed a report with the Los Angeles Police Department “claiming Nicole withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars from their business account without authorization,” saying she embezzled $385,029.

Bitter breakups happen every day in America, but the vast majority of couples will not see their “dirty laundry” aired in public – and especially not in so many tabloids. I have talked before about the issues that can crop up when celebrities and athletes do not present a united front. What is unfolding in the public eye here, however, has moved from juicy tabloid story into a full-blown public relations crisis, despite any efforts that may have been made by Dr. Dre’s team. The narrative is spinning far out of either party’s control and reclaiming that narrative may be more difficult than Dr. Dre or his team realize. Whether or not it damages the brand is yet to be seen.

Dr. Dre faces a prenup challenge

In late June, news broke that Nicole Young, wife of Andre “Dr. Dre” Young, was filing for divorce after 24 years of marriage. Initially, various sources reported there was no prenuptial agreement in place, and many people wondered what that would mean for Dr. Dre’s empire, valued at around $800 million.

As it turns out, there is a prenuptial agreement in place according to Dr. Dre. Per Vanity Fair, Dre “agreed to pay spousal support, but asked that property be divided according to their prenup, which he said does in fact exist.” On August 4, 2020, Nicole Young issued a challenge to that prenup, claiming that Dr. Dre ripped the document up, and that she has not be able to get a hold of a copy of it. She is also claiming that she “was extremely reluctant, resistant and afraid to sign the agreement and felt backed into a corner,” indicating that she may have signed the agreement under duress.

Can a prenuptial agreement be voided?

There are circumstances under which a prenuptial agreement can be invalidated. In New York, one of those circumstances is being forced to sign an agreement under duress. Typically, this means extreme coercion, and duress is not easy to prove. For example, prenups presented to a spouse on the night before the wedding (coupled with a threat to cancel said wedding) have been upheld in New York.

In California, however, where the divorce papers were filed, the law requires that both parties have seven days to review the documentation before signing it. If Nicole Young can prove she had fewer than seven days, she may be able to have the prenuptial agreement voided.

Does ripping up a legal document render it void?

It shouldn’t. If, for example, your house burned down, your marriage would not be invalidated because your copy of the marriage certificate burned up in the fire. As such, a legally signed, witnessed, and notarized legal document like a prenuptial agreement would not be rendered void even if Dr. Dre ripped it up in a display of passion. Both parties would have to go through the formal process of amending the document or eliminating it altogether.

That said, if Mrs. Young is claiming that the photocopy of the document being provided to the court is fraudulent, having that original would be very helpful for Dr. Dre in proving that his copy represents the genuine article.

It is also worth noting that Dr. Dre denies destroying the document.

What happens now?

In this particular case, it appears likely that a judge will grant a motion to hear what Nicole Young has to say, and to determine whether or not there is a valid prenuptial. If the agreement is found valid, then there may be nothing Young can do, and the good doctor can breathe a sigh of relief.

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For more information contact Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP.

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