Associated Press/Susan Walsh
- First couples face extreme scrutiny and are often surrounded by rumors about their personal lives, which likely makes marriage at the White House rather stressful.
- However, no president and first lady have ever divorced during the president’s term, meaning any potential divorce would be unchartered waters.
- Luckily for President Donald Trump, his proclivity for prenups would likely make it a smooth process.
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President Donald and first lady Melania Trump are currently in one of the most stressful marital situations in politics, as first couples face constant scrutiny and ongoing speculation.
The White House has never seen a divorce during a presidential term, so much of the details of any split would be unprecedented and up to the couple. Here’s how it could happen.
The couple came under refreshed scrutiny when Melania moved into the White House in June 2018.
Though she insisted it was for her son to finish the school year in New York, the first lady’s delayed move in, over a year after Trump’s inauguration, sparked rumors about the couple’s marriage.
The October 2016 release by The Washington Post of a tape on which Trump is heard saying that because he’s famous, he can "grab [women] by the p—y" and the connection revealed later linking Trump to hush-money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels, which Michael Cohen testified were made under Trump’s direction, sparked ongoing rumors about the state of the first couple’s marriage.
The couple fueled speculation about marital troubles as Melania has seemed to grow distant from Donald, skipping trips, riding separately to the State of the Union, and skipping any public mention of their wedding anniversary.
Trump is a big believer in prenups and his past divorce deals could contain hints about his currently private agreement with Melania.
Trump is no stranger to prenuptial agreements, considering his wealth, three marriages, and two divorces.
"It’s a hard, painful, ugly tool," Trump said about the agreements, which lay out predetermined terms and benefits of a divorce. "Believe me, there’s nothing fun about it. But there comes a time when you have to say, ‘Darling, I think you’re magnificent, and I care for you deeply, but if things don’t work out, this is what you’re going to get.’"
The contracts can include money, houses, or anything a future spouse deems valuable enough to protect. They can also be amended over the course of a marriage to match a spouse’s growing wealth or growing family, and are often private until the terms shake out in a divorce settlement.
Trump’s prenup with his second wife, Marla Maples, was largely designed to avoid the messy public fight he went through with his first divorce.
A copy of his prenuptial agreement with Maples that was obtained by Vanity Fair shows that Trump wasn’t afraid to draw harsh lines in the sand in the event of a divorce, including cutting off child support payments if the child gets a job or joins the military, and barring the ex-spouse from publishing any details about the marriage.
Trump’s personal wishes were likely honored by Melania, as Trump reportedly told gossip columnist Liz Smith that negotiations had gone smoothly, saying "The beautiful thing is that she agrees with it. She knows I have to have that."
The terms of the divorce were likely changed before Melania entered the White House. according to a divorce expert.
Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images
The White House was an unexpected path for the couple’s life together and likely means there were re-negotiations of their initial prenup agreement, particularly by Melania.
Jacqueline Newman, managing partner and divorce litigation specialist at Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, said Melania likely "upped the terms" when she was set to become first lady because of the extensive lifestyle changes she was going to experience.
"Whatever amount of money she was due to receive, my guess is that she’s going to want an increased amount," Newman said. "If they were to divorce now or after he’s no longer president, there’s going to be security detail, there’s going to be all sorts of things that are going to be very different for her as a former first lady than if she was just Donald Trump’s wife."
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