Excerpt: The One Percent Divorce by Dror Bikel
The Art of the Prenup
Donald Trump Divorce Takeaways
As respected for his uncanny ability to amass fortune as he is detested for his enormous ego and cheating ways, we can’t deny that Donald Trump is a force to be reckoned with. Whether negotiating a billion-dollar deal or multi-million-dollar divorce, Trump comes out on top. He’s done it all, from publishing New York Times best sellers, to hosting a hit reality TV show, to becoming president of the United States. It seems there is nothing Trump can’t handle–except maybe marriage.
Unlike Trump’s vast catalog of accomplishments which rely on his own hard work, intellect, and determination, marriage is a two-way street. For once, it is not all about Trump. With two divorces under his belt and infidelity becoming his middle name, Trump doesn’t seem to be Master of the Deal when it comes to marriage contracts.
During his first marriage to Ivana, Donald’s roaming eye ventured over toward actress/model Marla Maples, leading to his first divorce after 16 years of marriage. He tried again, marrying Marla in 1993, only to divorce five years later. In 2005, Trump married his current wife, model and First Lady Melania Knauss, and according to recent developments involving one Stormy Daniels, their relationship could be headed in the same direction.
While most of us can agree that Trump is an unfaithful husband, we cannot dispute the fact that he has come out of his multiple divorces without a scratch. His finances are intact, his children are well-adjusted, successful adults, and his family and exes support him fervently in the media. As a highly successful billionaire and U.S. President, Donald Trump certainly fits the one percent divorce criteria.
Wife #1: Ivana Zelníčková
Ice Queen with Business Skills
Born and raised in Czechoslovakia, Ivana Marie Zelníčková spent her childhood modeling, studying, and skiing. Her downhill and slalom skills earned her an alternate position on the Czech Olympic team. In 1971, at age 22, Ivana married Canadian real estate agent and fellow skier Alfred Winklmayr, a union reportedly designed to allow her to leave communist Czechoslovakia for Canada. They divorced after two years of marriage. The determined Ivana continued working as a model, achieved a master’s degree in physical education, and studied business and decorating.
Ivana met Donald Trump while visiting New York City to promote the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. As she tells it, Trump reserved Ivana and her friends a table at a trendy Manhattan restaurant, paid the tab, and chauffeured them back to their hotel in a big Cadillac. "My instincts told me that Donald was smart and funny—an all-America good guy," Ivana writes in Raising Trump1.
Preparing for a rainy day
In March 1977, after a six-month relationship, Ivana first sat down with Trump to negotiate a prenuptial agreement. The deal-making hit a rough spot when he tried to add a stipulation requiring her to return all the jewelry she had received as a gift if they got divorced. When she was presented with the proposed clause, Ivana left the room in a rage, according to reports. Neither was the bride-to-be pleased with Donald’s reluctance to include a ‘rainy day’ divorce fund of $150,000.
Ivana felt that she was giving up her lucrative modeling career, and the divorce fund was fair compensation. Eventually, she got him to agree to a $100,000 fund. In 1979, however, Ivana renegotiated the prenup, and the divorce fund went up to $750,000. As Donald’s business boomed, she renegotiated again in 1984 and 1987. In 1984, she upped the cash to a more substantial $2.5 million. In 1987, the negotiations lasted six months, and the figure went up to $10 million.
It’s hard to know whether Ivana was, literally, preparing for a rainy day, as rumor has it that Donald slept with Marla Maples for the first time when the ink was still fresh on the agreement.
Marriage to Ivana
After both parties approved the first version of the prenup, Donald and Ivana were married by Reverend Norman Vincent Peale in an extravagant, highly publicized Manhattan ceremony. Ivana was not to be a mere homemaker after giving up modeling.
Being a businesswoman herself and skilled in interior design, Ivana worked by Donald’s side revamping New York City’s Grand Hyatt Hotel, Trump Plaza (a $60 million renovation)2, Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, and Fifth Avenue’s Trump Tower. She became president of the Trump Castle Hotel and Casino, managing 4,000 employees3. Trump eventually made her vice president of interior design for the Trump Organization. Though 1970s’ society looked down on Trump for giving such important jobs to a woman, her insight, hard work, and natural charm undoubtedly helped make them New York’s most iconic power couple of the ‘80s.
Donald definitely wanted children. He once told a friend that he wanted five children, like in his own family, because then one of them would at least “turn out like [him].”4 On New Year’s Eve 1977, Donald John Trump Jr. was born. Daughter Ivanka Marie followed in October 1981, then Eric Frederick in January 1984. Though Ivana was a diligent businesswoman, when it came to being a wife and mother, she stuck to her traditional European roots.
“I don’t mind that Donald is the boss,” said Ivana. “I like it that way. I have to have a strong man. This is why most feminists aren’t married and have no children. I like to have both.”5 Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric spent their childhood summers in the Czech outdoors near Prague and Zlin, fishing, camping, hunting. and speaking Czech with their maternal grandfather Miloš Zelníček6.
In her book, Ivana says she was the one in charge of raising the children, the one who made all the decisions about their education, leisure, and allowances. She recalls that it was hard raising three children with a full-time job, but in spite of her occupations, she managed to have breakfast with the children every day. This is a key element when it comes to establishing custody. There was no custody war in Ivana’s divorce, but if there had been one, the fact that she was the one helping the kids with homework and having dinner with them every night, would have played a major role.
As far as Donald’s role in raising the children, Ivana has written that he was much better as a father than as a husband. She argued that his children wouldn’t adore him so much if he was not such a great dad. In his own book, The Art of the Deal, Trump said he adores his kids but has never been good at playing with them. He also referred to their demands that he come home soon, which reinforce the idea that he wasn’t around that much. In a 1990 interview with Playboy, Trump described Ivana as a kind woman with the right instincts and drive for a successful business career. “She's focused and she's a perfectionist. She's a great mother, a good woman who does a good job,"7 Trump said. When asked if marriage meant monogamy, Trump shared his theory about the value of flirtations in both business and politics. “Especially as you get into certain strata where there is an ego involved and a high level of success, it's important. People really like the idea that other people respond well to them," he explained. Undoubtedly, it’s a theory he has lived by.
In December 1989, the Trumps took a family vacation to Aspen, Colorado. Witness accounts report that Ivana and Trump’s alleged mistress, 26-year old model Marla Maples, got into a screaming match over Donald during a family dinner at Bonnie's restaurant on Ajax Mountain. Rumors say Donald had invited Marla to stay in Aspen behind Ivana’s back. Exact details vary, but the incident marked the start of a media frenzy over Donald and Marla’s relationship–and the end of the Ivana-Donald era. By February 1990, the infamous Trumps had separated.
School Bullying and Paparazzi
Ivana’s Children After Divorce
Despite certain efforts to keep things private, the kids had a rough time of the tabloid chaos. Peers at the Buckley School made fun of 12-year-old Donald Jr. "Listen, it's tough to be a 12-year-old," Don Jr. told New York magazine. "You're not quite a man, but you think you are. You think you know everything. Being driven into school every day and you see the front page and it's 'Divorce! The Best Sex I Ever Had!' And, you don't even know what that means. At that age, kids are naturally cruel.”8
In Born Trump: Inside America’s First Family, Emily Fox describes how photographers pestered nine-year-old Ivanka at Chapin, constantly asking her about Marla. Ivana speedily took the kids out of school for a while to Palm Beach for private tutoring. The children were devastated, according to Ivana, who recalls Ivanka crying and asking whether she was “not going to be Ivanka Trump anymore.'" While Donald Jr. stopped talking to his father entirely after the split, Ivanka clung to him more than ever. She was terrified of being replaced or losing him, so, she was constantly visiting him at the office and calling him on the phone.
Ivana has told reporters she had two rules for dealing with her children during the divorce: she would never show panic and she would never speak ill of Trump to the kids. On the other hand, Donald said it was hard to explain to the children why the couple had gotten divorced, because they didn’t use to fight, and they didn’t see the split coming.
If there is one thing to learn from Trump’s first divorce, it’s that you need a solid PR strategy to keep the tabloids at bay. We do not know the gory details of every movie star or billionaire’s life. It is not impossible to protect the children. Trump was very poor at it, and anyone going through a highly exposed divorce needs to prioritize this aspect if they want to preserve any peace of mind through that already difficult process.
Trumping the Prenup
Ivana’s Fight Against Enforcement of the Agreement
Though reports estimate Donald had a net worth of $1.5 billion to $4 billion at the time of the divorce, Ivana had repeatedly agreed to no more than $25 million, their 47-room Connecticut estate, an apartment in Trump Plaza, and custody of the children.
Although that is not what she got in the end, the fact that she would even consider it shows that she put her children’s well-being first, and was ready to give up a substantial amount of money in order to get custody.
During the divorce proceedings, though, her lawyer argued about the extreme disparity, calling the contract "unconscionable and fraudulent." Ivana demanded $150 million, a private jet, the Plaza Hotel, and custody of the kids.9 But a spokesman for Donald told the New York Times the nuptial agreement was "100 percent enforceable in courts of law."10 Ivana would have to prove she had signed the latest version of the agreement under duress or had been deceived, if she wanted to gain anything more. She could also try to prove that Donald and Marla had had an ongoing relationship, or that she herself had contributed significantly to Trump’s fortune. It is unclear whether she pursued such arguments.
Another hurdle Donald encountered through the divorce proceedings has to do with Ivana’s allegation of rape. She used the word during a deposition to describe a 1989 incident between her and Donald. He has always denied it. Later, Ivana claimed, “As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent. I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”11
The Divorce Settlement
The Trumps' divorce was settled in December 1991 and finalized in 1992 on the grounds of “cruel and inhuman treatment.” According to Donald’s attorney Jay Goldberg, the ‘cruel treatment’ was Donald’s somewhat public affair with Marla, which caused Ivana pain and suffering.“
In the end, Ivana got a $14 million settlement, the Connecticut mansion, the Trump Plaza apartment, and one month per year use of Trump’s 110,000 square-foot Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. In addition, Donald agreed to pay around $650,000 per year in child support.12 While Donald rarely said anything blatantly negative about Ivana after the divorce, he explained in his book Surviving at the Top that he hated her drive to become a socialite and her making constant plans for them to attend social events. He also admitted that he made a mistake in not talking things over with Ivana, and just basically bailing out. “I didn’t leave for another woman, by the way. I didn’t leave for Marla. I left,” he wrote.13
Whether the claims are true or not, there is another important lesson there. Many things can go terribly wrong in a marriage, but not talking things over openly can only complicate things. Needless to say, having an affair out in the public eye doesn’t help at all.
Wife #2: Marla Maples
The Starlet Nextdoor
Another small-town girl, Marla Maples grew up in Georgia playing basketball, earning swimming trophies, and competing in beauty pageants, eventually winning the Miss Hawaiian Tropic title. After graduating high school with honors and working toward a degree in marketing at the University of Georgia for two years, Maples moved to New York to model and studied acting, scoring parts on the hit TV show Dallas, the daytime soap Loving, and a small appearance in Spielberg’s movie Maximum Overdrive.
Rumors suggest Marla and Donald began dating secretly around 1989 when she was 25, though the exact date is disputed (and could have meant a big difference in Ivana’s $14 million takeaway). Marla told Vanity Fair in 1990 that she had encountered Trump at events several times over the years before they became intimate. Apparently, Donald took Marla to the Mirage Casino launch in Las Vegas in November of 1989 and paid for her to stay in Aspen over Christmas. This was when the incident with Ivana occurred. According to Marla, Ivana and Donald started arguing loudly at Bonnie’s restaurant after Ivana noticed Marla and her girlfriends dining there.
"I feel for her," Marla told Vanity Fair. "I think she must have known in her heart it wasn't about me. There would never have been any discussion of my and Donald's friendship if things had been good. I was his friend for so long and I constantly said to him, 'Stay and make it work. Don't give up the marriage—you've got your kids.'"
In April 1990, during an interview with Diane Sawyer on the national television show PrimeTime, Marla publicly confirmed the relationship between her and Donald. They continued to date, popping in and out of the public eye. Marla gave birth to Donald’s fourth child, Tiffany Ariana Trump, on October 13, 1993.
Sign on the Dotted Line
Speedy Prenup and Dream Wedding
Trump married Marla two months later in December 1993 at New York City’s Plaza Hotel. The lavish event was attended by 17 television crews, 90 paparazzi, and 1,000 guests, including Susan Lucci, Evander Holyfield, O.J. Simpson, Howard Stern, and Robin Leach.14
Just five days before the wedding, Marla was presented with a prenup. Under its terms, she would get $2 million if they divorced in less than four years, and the amount would increase if the marriage lasted longer. Later on, she would claim she signed the prenup under duress. To avoid that problem, it is essential to allow enough time for the other party to evaluate and negotiate the prenup.
There are numerous legal precedents for prenups signed under duress being thrown out in court. In one typical case, the bride was an immigrant with no fortune, and she wouldn’t be able to get a visa unless she married the groom. He had brought her straight from overseas and moved her into his luxurious penthouse. A few days before the wedding she was presented with a very unfavorable prenup and told something along the lines of, “if you don’t sign, there will be no wedding.” When the couple got divorced, a judge ruled in the woman’s favor, arguing that she had signed under duress.
While Marla’s situation was not this dramatic, she did have grounds to contest the validity of her prenup with Trump, but, as we shall see, she chose not to press too hard of her own volition. When Marla married him, he was reportedly nearing bankruptcy. When they divorced, he was worth billions.
After his second marriage, Donald continued working hard trying to rebuild his tarnished empire, and the relationship suffered. Donald and Marla separated in May of 1997 after just under four years of marriage. Donald, then 52, filed for divorce from 35-year-old Maples three months later.
Duress Meets Weakness
Marla Tries to Contest the Prenup
Trump’s second divorce was not smooth, in spite of the existence of a prenup. The agreement’s four-year marriage clause offered Marla $2 million. The couple separated just weeks before their four-year anniversary. The divorce was finalized in June of 1999, granted on the grounds that the couple had lived apart for over one year.15
Marla disagreed with the prenup, apparently arguing that she had been forced to sign it less than a week before her wedding and hadn’t had enough time to review it. Her lawyer was convinced that the massive increase in Trump’s net worth during their marriage could help her case.
Against all the odds, Marla decided to take the $2 million instead of taking Trump to court. She had recently had a traumatizing trial experience involving a former PR agent, and decided to put her health and peace of mind first. She came away from the divorce with just under $2 million, an undisclosed amount of child support, and custody of their five-year-old daughter Tiffany. Pocket change for Donald, in the light of his estimated $5-billion net worth.16
Wife #3: Melania Knauss
A Newer Slovenian Model
Born Melanija Knavs (later Germanized to Melania Knauss), Melania was raised in a small town in central Slovenia. She reportedly began modeling as young as age five and, by age 18, was traveling as a model in Milan and Paris. She studied architecture and design at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia before moving to New York City in 1996.
Melania and Donald first met in September 1998 at a party during Fall New York Fashion Week. Melania was 28. She claims she knew little about Trump at the time. The two reportedly began dating in late 1990, showing up together publicly soon after his divorce from Marla. She continued to model, shooting for magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair, and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. After a nine-month engagement, Melania was most certainly presented with a prenup.
If Things Don’t Work Out...
Recalling that unpleasant moment, Trump told New York Magazine that their prenup had strengthened the relationship. “Believe me, there’s nothing fun about it,” he said, “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.”
Though the current Mrs. Trump’s prenup is confidential, it is easy to guess that they must have agreed on a fixed amount, while Trump gets to keep most of his personal assets in the event of a divorce. Whatever’s in the prenup, Melania will likely get custody, since she is the primary caretaker for their son Barron.
But there is one thing that is very different in Melania’s case: she is now the First Lady, and divorce is not very good for the presidency. When Trump was elected, Melania may have asked to renegotiate her prenup. She now has a lot of leverage, because a scandal might have disastrous consequences for Trump’s political career. The rumors that Trump was seeing a porn actress certainly must not have helped his case.
Considering everything Melania has done for Trump, backing him up when several women accused him of sexual harassment, and even after video of him discussing his exploits surfaced, undoubtedly, when Donald divorces Melania, because it seems unlikely that they will live together ever after, she will probably get a better settlement than her predecessors.
Behind a Great Man...
A Convenient Marriage
Whatever the mysterious prenup contained, Melania agreed to sign it, and the couple married on January 22, 2005 in Palm Beach, Florida. In attendance were Rudy Giuliani, Katie Couric, Barbara Walters, Heidi Klum, Simon Cowell, Shaquille O’Neal, P. Diddy, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
"We are very happy together," Donald told gossip columnist Cindy Adams at the time. "She's shown she can be the woman behind me. We're together five years, and these five years for whatever reasons have been my most successful. I have to imagine she had something to do with that."17
On March 20, 2006, Donald’s fifth child, Barron William Trump was born. Melania seems less interested in actively participating in Trump’s business compared to Ivana, spending most of her time focused on Barron. “We know what our roles are and we are happy with them,” Melania told Parenting when asked about her marriage. “I am a full-time mom; that is my first job. The most important job ever. I cook him breakfast. Bring him to school. Pick him up. Prepare his lunch. Sometimes I have obligations, but I also think children need to see a parent do what her passion is. It is a good example for a child. So the child can find passion as well and follow that passion in the future.”
Asked about Donald’s relationship with Barron, Melania said the two spend a lot of time together in Mar-a-Lago, where they play golf and enjoy family time. She has also said that she is OK with Trump not having changed diapers, because she enjoyed doing that kind of thing herself.18
Upon Donald’s inauguration in January 2017, Melania became First Lady. It was the first time a naturalized U.S. citizen occupied that position, and the second time the president’s wife was foreign-born. Melania and Barron remained in Manhattan’s Trump Tower until Barron finished attending Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School, joining Donald in the White House in June 2017.
Melania supported her husband throughout the presidential campaign. When the Washington Post published a 2005 video of Donald having "an extremely lewd conversation about women” with television host Billy Bush in 2005, Melania told CNN her husband had been urged into “boy talk.” Soon after, several women accused Donald of sexual harassment. Melania told CNN the allegations were lies concocted by her husband’s political enemies.19
In November 2016, news spread that Trump was having an affair with Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal from 2006 to 2007.20 In January 2018, adult film star Stormy Daniels alleged she had had a sexual encounter with Donald in 2006.21 Later reports claimed Donald’s lawyer paid the women $130,000 (Daniels) and $150,000 (McDougal) to keep quiet about the affairs. Donald continues to deny the allegations, yet the controversy has sparked worldwide conversations about the potential for divorce, and what divorce would mean for Donald and Melania.
No U.S. president has ever divorced while in office. Donald Trump is the second U.S. president to have divorced before entering office, the first being Ronald Reagan, who divorced actress Jane Wyman in 1949 before marrying Nancy Davis in 1952. But philandering in the Oval Office isn’t anything new. Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Bill Clinton were all accused of having affairs during their political careers and all remaining married throughout their presidency.
Some wonder whether Melania can even file for divorce from Donald. Back in 1982, the Court held that Nixon was immune from civil actions based on official actions, explaining that the "President occupies a unique position in the constitutional scheme. [Because] of the singular importance of the President's duties, diversion of his energies by concern with private lawsuits would raise unique risks to the effective functioning of government."
Since then, the concept of presidential immunity appears to make it impossible to file a civil claim against the president. But this is false. The doctrine is in place to protect the commander-in-chief so that he can continue to serve in an official capacity. A divorce would not prevent his ability to serve.
The issue came up when Paula Corbin Jones filed a civil lawsuit in federal court accusing President Clinton of sexual harassment that allegedly happened before he took office. Clinton’s lawyers invoked presidential immunity, asking to delay the case until his term had ended. Since presidential immunity applies only to the president’s official actions, the Supreme Court ruled the doctrine didn’t apply. Donald Trump’s personal activities are actions outside of his official duties as president, and a divorce would not prevent him from performing his official duties. Thus, Melania could indeed file for divorce from Donald in civil court.
Many want to know who would act as First Lady if Melania and Donald separated. The First Lady hasn’t always been the president’s wife. Unmarried and widowed presidents have historically assigned this role to daughters, daughters-in-law, nieces, and sisters. Daughter Martha Jefferson served for the widowed Thomas Jefferson, niece Emily Donelson for widowed Andrew Jackson, and sister Rose Cleveland for bachelor Grover Cleveland. In President Trump’s case, it is rumored that he would assign daughter Ivanka to the role, though any female he appoints could serve. In true Trump tradition, the couple undoubtedly has a prenup, though the specifics are unknown.
Melania could potentially fight to amend the terms of the prenuptial agreement in a postnuptial contract to get more, but these are rare and rather complex. If she hasn’t already renegotiated, she may be able to argue that she didn’t anticipate Donald becoming president at the time she signed the prenup. But Donald has been considering running for president as far back as 1999, so that argument would most likely fail.
Ironclad Prenups and Loving Mothers
Lessons Learned from Trump’s Divorces
There are quite a few points we can take away from Trump’s multiple divorces, including the importance of airtight prenups, how to raise children of divorce, and how to nurture relationships between the various families after a split. But first, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: Donald’s infidelity.
Donald Trump is a member of a very long list of infamous serial cheaters, which includes the likes of Cleopatra, Benjamin Franklin, Hemingway, Albert Einstein, Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, and Tiger Woods. To put it bluntly, regardless of his financial success, Trump is your run-of-the-mill, sleazy, wealthy guy. He’s simply not a loyal partner and likely never will be.
For many in a position of power, having an extramarital affair seems to be part of the program. Some cheat in association with substance abuse problems. Others have self-esteem issues, seeking love from anyone who will offer it. Narcissistic types may view cheating as an exciting, adrenaline-filled challenge. Those with trust issues will cheat on their spouse before they get cheated on, themselves. We can try to explain away the reasons for adultery all day, but the fact is, cheating is an incredibly self-centered, disrespectful, hurtful behavior that causes a devastating amount of humiliation, embarrassment, and injury to everyone involved.
President John F. Kennedy had the same problem, allegedly cheating on Jackie before and during office with women like Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Judith Campbell, Gunilla von Post, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Pamela Turnure. Jackie Kennedy certainly had to have known what was going on, and likely wasn’t happy about it. She reportedly considered divorce, although how seriously is unclear. And then, there’s Bill Clinton. Irrefutable evidence of an affair with Monica Lewinsky during office led Bill to admit he had cheated on Hillary. Other allegations that Clinton denies include Juanita Broaddrick’s tale of rape, dating back to 1978, Paula Jones’ claims that Clinton sexually harassed her in 1991, and Kathleen Willey’s accusations of a 1993 assault.
For whatever reason, many spouses of powerful, high-profile cheaters simply choose to stick beside their partners. Wives who stick out a marriage to an unfaithful husband are often business- minded people themselves, willing to overlook infidelity for the good of the couple’s reputation. In her 2017 book What Happened, Hillary writes, “There were times that I was deeply unsure about whether our marriage could or should survive. But on those days, I asked myself the questions that mattered most to me: Do I still love him? And can I still be in this marriage without becoming unrecognizable to myself—twisted by anger, resentment, or remoteness? The answers were always yes. So I kept going.”22
But to “keep going” doesn’t mean that infidelity doesn’t have long-lasting, painful consequences for the wronged spouse and their children. Because of the anguish adultery can cause, the legal system offers some recompense for spouses who’ve been cheated on, as long as they can prove it. While all U.S. states allow no-fault divorce claims, some states also allow fault-based divorce claims, where one spouse claims the other is at fault for the marriage dissolution. Adultery is often allowed as a reason for these fault-based divorces—generally defined as sexual activity or intercourse with someone other than the spouse.
If you do end up proving your partner’s affair, the court may order reimbursement of any marital money spent on a lover, including travel, accommodations, dining out, clothes, and jewelry. But to establish an adultery claim as grounds for a fault-based divorce isn’t easy, typically requiring some form of direct evidence and a supporting witness. Because most philandering spouses try to keep things under wraps, going to extreme lengths to hide or disguise any paper trail or other evidence of their affairs, proving an affair can be next to impossible.
Some couples today are including “infidelity penalty” clauses in their prenuptial agreements, stating that if a spouse is caught cheating, they will lose a large portion of the assets or support in divorce. Whether these clauses can be worth your while, is debatable. They may not be enforceable in every situation, and again, the wronged spouse would still need to prove that the affair happened for the clause to become active. But an unfaithful spouse might decide not to contest the allegations or fight the prenup in order to save their reputation. Such a clause might even dissuade an otherwise two-timing spouse from going astray.
Understandably, most couples entering into marriage don’t even want to think about adultery. But it is very important to address the potential. Has your fiancé cheated in the past? Have you had a problem being faithful in relationships? I would advise any party entering into marriage to seriously consider what would happen should an affair occur. If you tend to cheat, make absolutely certain you have an ironclad prenup that protects you from any future allegations. If your partner has a tendency to cheat, work diligently with a legal team to devise a prenup that prepares for such behavior—making certain you and any children will have what you need to carry on, should the marriage end.
Trump knows himself. He knows his own behavior. His legal camp makes certain that all of his prenups are bulletproof on the infidelity issue, expecting it to happen at one point or another. Ivana may not have known of Trump’s tendency to cheat, but Marla and Melania can’t say they entered the marriage blindly expecting a faithful husband. Marla’s obvious mistake was not taking the time to read her prenup thoroughly and request revisions before signing.
While you may be offended by having to even consider a prenup, don’t be. It shows the sign of a smart spouse and gives you the chance to cover your own future needs. Take a lesson from Marla and ALWAYS read and understand your prenup. If you think you don’t have time, make time. If you think it isn’t fair, work with your spouse and legal team to revise it. Finally, if you are the one creating the prenup, make sure there are no opportunities to fight it successfully. An experienced legal team will be able to ensure your agreement is final once signed, with no cracks a disgruntled spouse could take advantage of.
While no U.S. state allows prenuptial agreements to control any child custody issues, it is likely that Trump knows from the start of any marriage who will get the children. Trump has never contested the custody of his children. He has a history of giving custody of his children to their mothers, which makes sense. They have traditionally been the caregivers while Trump is out working. “I like kids. I mean, I won’t do anything to take care of them,” Trump told Howard Stern in 2005. “I’ll supply funds and she’ll take care of the kids. It’s not like I’m gonna be walking the kids down Central Park.”23
Understanding your goals for custody early on can help you avoid the courtroom and ease the process for the children. Shared custody is the goal of most parents and the majority of courts. Judges prefer shared custody outcomes whenever possible, knowing that a relationship with both parents is best for the child. If your spouse is the primary caregiver of the children and a good parent, there should be no question who gets primary custody.
I have seen many angry parents over the years who have been relatively uninvolved in their child’s upbringing, yet want to go to court and battle over custody. If their argument is good enough, they can win—often to the detriment of the children. Children need routine and nurturing. Unless allegations of physical, mental, or emotional abuse against a parent are involved, it is always in the best interest of the child to go with the parent who spends the most time with them on a day-to-day basis. Trump certainly did the right thing granting custody to the mothers of his children, while simultaneously integrating the children into his own life as much as possible.
When both spouses are willing and fit to parent, both should be involved in the children’s upbringing after divorce. Consider Ivana, who was so angry at the time of their divorce that she was accusing Trump of rape. She could have easily tried to argue that Trump should never see the kids again. The fact that Ivana put the whole Marla Maples debacle aside when it came to her children, allowing them to spend time with their dad, speaks well of her as a mother—and of Trump as a father. This is certainly the goal of any divorce, to treat the children as separate from the relationship between ex-spouses.
Post-divorce family relationships
Children are not at fault for divorce. The effect it has on them should be minimal. Not only do Trump’s children have strong relationships with their father, but bonds have also formed between members of the mixed family. Donald keeps in contact with his children’s mothers, and in fact, the whole Trump clan seems close—something rare but highly recommended in life after divorce. An overall positive relationship between Trump, his ex-wives, and all five children has certainly been beneficial to everyone.
In her book Raising Trump, Ivana writes about her positive relationship with Donald, saying they speak regularly, and she even encourages him to “keep tweeting.”24 And about those rape comments Ivana made back in 1990 during the heat of their divorce, she said in a statement broadcast by CNN in 2015, “I have recently read some comments attributed to me from nearly 30 years ago at a time of very high tension during my divorce from Donald. The story is totally without merit. Donald and I are the best of friends and together have raised three children that we love and are very proud of.”25
The fact that Ivana’s children apparently hold high opinions of Melania as a wife and mother is also an impressive outcome of divorce. Remarking on how Melania is with son Barron, Ivana told People in 2016, “It’s pretty uncommon for wives of candidates to not be on the campaign trail every day. And she made a decision I totally respect, which is that she has a young son, he needs stability, he needs routine. She takes him to school every day, picks him up every day. It's a really remarkable thing, and she's a great inspiration to me as I raise my own children in terms of family first and having the right priorities."26
Even the children from different mothers appear to get along. Ivanka reportedly helped little sister Tiffany get an internship at Vogue in 2011.27 It is always advisable to keep things as civil as possible, if not during divorce, then after. It’s never too late to mend fences and forge relationships.
Raising well-adjusted children
Though the Trump kids are wealthy, famous children of high-profile divorces, they have come out remarkably unscathed. Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol, or otherwise wasting their lives away along with their parents’ money, the Trump children have proven to be hard-working students, well-adjusted adults, responsible spouses and parents, and dedicated business people. Donald Trump Jr. graduated from his dad’s alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, earning a Bachelor of Economics in 2000. He began working in the Trump Organization in 2001, eventually becoming executive vice president for development and acquisitions. He is the father of five children, with wife Vanessa Haydon, though Vanessa filed for divorce on March 15, 2018.28
Like her older brother, Ivanka also graduated from Wharton with a Bachelor of Economics. She became executive VP of the Trump Organization in 2005, created a fine jewelry line and fashion line, has published two books, The Trump Card (2009) and Women Who Work (2017), won the 2012 Joseph Wharton Award for Young Leadership, and is raising three children with husband and real estate developer Jared Kushner. She now acts as Advisor to the President.
Ivana’s youngest, Eric Trump, graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in finance and management. In 2007, Eric founded the Eric Trump Foundation in 2007 to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, raising $16.3 million by 2017.29 In 2013, he married Inside Edition associate producer Lara Yunaska. He is now raising a son born in fall 2017, and works alongside his brother as executive VP of development and acquisitions for The Trump Organization. Tiffany Trump is also on the road to success, having graduated Wharton and now attending Georgetown Law School in D.C.
We all remember when, amidst the mudslinging and name-calling of the 2016 presidential race, a voter asked Hillary to name one thing she respected about Donald. She said, “I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald.” Trump undoubtedly cares about his children. Much of the children’s success, however, goes to the mothers who worked hard to keep them out of the public eye, instill a strong work ethic, and give them as normal a life as possible. Trump has a tendency to choose strong, caring women raised with traditional family values as the mothers of his children.
Despite not having day-to-day interaction, Donald also played an important role in raising his children. According to Eric Trump, he and his siblings were always expected to work hard. In spite of their privileges, they were mowing lawns or laying tile at Trump properties during the summer while they were in school.30
Remarking on what it was like to have a famous father, Donald Trump Jr. told his father in a 2006 Forbes interview, "It's definitely not always easy. There's definitely advantages to it. We've got to be spoiled, hopefully in all the right ways, getting great educations, getting to travel the world—but I think you've done an amazing job, and mom's done an amazing job, really getting us to work for everything we ever really wanted in our lives, and I think that's why we're successful at what we do today."31
Following the Marla Maples divorce, Marla continued to encourage a relationship between Donald and Tiffany, bringing her into New York several times a year, making sure they hang out at his office and had dinner together with Melania. “I just said it’s important for her to form her own relationship with him, without my input. I wanted to create some consistency where she could see him,” Marla once told People magazine.32
Though growing up in Calabasas, California, more distant from her father than Ivana’s children, Tiffany’s relationship with Donald is ongoing. Proud of his daughter attending his alma mater, Trump told People in 2014, "She's got all A’s at Penn, so we're proud of her."33 Tiffany has also discussed her relationship with her father in interviews, saying they see each other often and are always in contact by phone. She has referred to their bond as strong and to Donald as a loving and supportive father, who still respects Marla.34
* * *
Although he failed in many of his negotiations with Ivana, Donald has managed to remain on top, successful in his career and nurturing as a father figure. He has succeeded in enforcing his prenuptial agreements. One sloppy prenup could have meant millions more in losses for Trump. He also chooses loving, hard-working mothers who choose to put child rearing and family values over the luxury life of being Trump’s wife.
Despite three marriages and two divorces, Trump has been able to maintain positive relationships with his ex-wives and children, even forging relationships between them. While most of us can agree that Trump is a disloyal husband, we can’t dispute the fact that he’s also a fiercely loyal, loving father. His children’s reputations are incredibly important to him, and he’ll do anything to protect them.
It remains to be seen whether the quiet, often scripted, Melania will not turn the tables on him. This is a man who could have been bankrupted by two divorces, as many others are, and yet, he has never resorted to estranging his kids from their mothers, and he has managed to remain a billionaire with a successful political career. And even if Melania plays the First Lady card to get a much more significant settlement than her predecessors in the event of a divorce, it is very unlikely that she will put a dent on Trump’s empire.
- Trump, I. (2017). Raising Trump. New York City, New York: Gallery Books.
- Burleigh, N. (2017, February 1). Melania, Ivanka, Ivana, Marla and the role of women in Trump's world. Newsweek. Retrieved from newsweek.com
- Burleigh, N. (2017, February 1). Melania, Ivanka, Ivana, Marla and the role of women in Trump's world. Newsweek. Retrieved from newsweek.com
- Brenner, M. (1990, September). After the gold rush. Vanity Fair. Retrieved from vanityfair.com
- Burleigh, N. (2017, February 1). Melania, Ivanka, Ivana, Marla and the role of women in Trump's world. Newsweek. Retrieved from newsweek.com
- Holson, L.M. (2017, March 18). Donald Trump Jr. is his own kind of Trump. The New York Times. Retrieved from nytimes.com
- Plaskin, G. (1990, March 1). The 1990 Playboy interview with Donald Trump. Playboy. Retrieved from playboy.com
- Meter, J.V. (2004, December 13). Did their father really know best? New York. Retrieved from nymag.com
- McGrory, M. (1990, February 18). What cards those Trumps are. Washington Post. Retrieved from washingtonpost.com
- Ravo, N. (1990, February 13). Trump, the divorce case: the accusations are flying. The New York Times. Retrieved from nytimes.com
- Hurt, H. (1993). Lost tycoon: The many lives of Donald J. Trump. New York City, New York: W.W. Norton.
- Hylton, R.D. (1991, March 21). Trumps settle; she gets $14 million plus. The New York Times. Retrieved from nytimes.com
- Meter, J.V. (2004, December 13). Did their father really know best? New York. Retrieved from nymag.com
- Dullea, G. (1993, December 21). VOWS; It's a wedding blitz for Trump and Maples. The New York Times. Retrieved from nytimes.com
- Donald, Marla officially end. (1999, February 22). People. Retrieved from people.com
- Gregorian, D. (1999, June 9). It’s no peach of a deal – Marla settles with Donald for mere $2m. New York Post. Retrieved from nypost.com
- Otterbourg, K. (2016, August 18). The mystery that is Melania Trump. Washington Post. Retrieved from washingtonpost.com
- James, S. Melania Trump juggles motherhood, marriage, and a career just like us. Parenting. Retrieved from parenting.com
- Bradner, E. (2016, October 18). Melania Trump: Donald Trump was 'egged on' into 'boy talk'. CNN. Retrieved from cnn.com
- Palazzolo, J. Rothfeld, M. Alpert, L. (2016, November 4). National Enquirer shielded Donald Trump from Playboy model's affair allegation. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from wsj.com
- ‘In Touch’ explosive interview with Stormy Daniels: Donald Trump cheated on Melania with me. (2018, January 19). In Touch Weekly. Retrieved from intouchweekly.com
- Clinton, H.R. (2017). What happened. New York City, New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Bellstrom, K. (2016, April 24). Donald Trump says men who take care of their kids are acting 'like the wife'. Fortune. Retrieved from fortune.com
- Trump, I. (2017). Raising Trump. New York City, New York: Gallery Books.
- Diamond, J. (2015, July 28). Trump distances himself from top aide's rape comment. CNN. Retrieved from cnn.com
- Triggs, C. (2016, July 20). Ivanka Trump praises Melania as 'an unbelievable mother' with 'the right priorities'. People. Retrieved from people.com
- Ellison, S. (2016, December 22). Inside Ivanka and Tiffany Trump’s complicated sister act. Vanity Fair. Retrieved from vanityfair.com
- Brown, S.R. (2018, March 15). Donald Trump Jr.'s wife Vanessa files for divorce. NY Daily News. Retrieved from nydailynews.com
- Lipton, E., Haberman, M. (2017, January 6). Hospital confirms Eric Trump helped raise $16.3 Million for it. The New York Times. Retrieved from nytimes.com
- Kawamoto, D, (2011, June 17). Donald Trump's legacy: kids who aim to think big. Daily Finance. Retrieved from web.archive.org
- Forbes. (2006, October 30). The Donald interviews the kids. Retrieved from Forbes on youtube.com
- Triggs, C. (2016, April 21). Marla Maples says she raised Tiffany as a 'single mother' after Donald Trump divorce: 'Her daddy was a good provider, but as far as time, it was just me'. People. Retrieved from peo