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Timing of Facebook creator's marriage protects his assets

Maryland residents might learn a lesson in asset division from two recent events in the life of Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook.

First, Facebook went public, selling its initial public stock offering for a significant sum of money, making Zuckerberg even wealthier than he was before. Second, Zuckerberg married his long-time sweetheart, Priscilla Chan. The events happened in that order -- the marriage occurring one day after the IPO.

Whether or not the couple planned it, this may have the effect of protecting the income Zuckerberg received from the IPO in the event of divorce. Because he acquired it before the marriage, Chan would have a harder time arguing that it is marital property.

Work income, which would here include Zuckerberg's share of the IPO offering, is generally considered as belonging to both the husband and the wife if earned during the marriage.

To say whether or not Zuckerberg timed it this way on purpose would be pure speculation. In any event, the couple likely has a prenuptial agreement that would play a key role in any asset division if divorce were to be sought.

Some have gone so far as to say that a prenuptial agreement would better protect Zuckerberg's assets than if he had stayed single, because some states (including Zuckerberg's home state of California) allow financial support for long-time unmarried partners in certain cases.

The couple met while in school together at Harvard. The wedding was a surprise for all the guests. The couple had nominally invited them to Zuckerberg's home in order to celebrate Chan's recent graduation from medical school. While Chan may earn a high income in her own right as a doctor, Zuckerberg owns Facebook stock valued at some $16.9 billion.

Source: ABA Journal, "How Mark Zuckerberg's Well-Timed Marriage May Protect His Assets in the Event of Divorce," Debra Cassens Weiss, May 21, 2012; Forbes, "Mark Zuckerberg Ties the Knot, But It Isn't All Love And Roses," Deborah L. Jacobs, May 20, 2012

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