Divorce and In-N-Out Burger; Two Subjects Near and Dear to Our Hearts

On January 11, 2017, the website iamsecond.com[1] posted a somber yet optimistic interview of Lynsi Snyder, the 34-year-old heiress to the In-N-Out empire.

Snyder’s historically reclusive family have quietly amassed a fortune, paving the way for her to become the wealthiest woman in America, when she inherits the remaining 50% of the company later this year. More importantly, in my personal opinion, In-N-Out has managed to deliver the most consistently delicious fast-food burgers in the world.

Despite (or arguable due to) the family’s largesse, both she and her father struggled with and faced addiction – and later divorces. In the interview, Snyder alludes to addiction being the cause of her father’s downward spiral, which resulted in her parents’ divorce. After her father’s death by accidental overdose, Snyder describes her own patterns of self-destructive behavior that led her to marry and divorce four times before turning to religion and settling down with her current (and final?) spouse.

This story was especially titillating to me as a Los Angeles native, forever-drawn to the epic food chain and its lore, and it certainly made me crave my usual order – double double, animal style, no pickles (they’re overpowering), with animal style fries (if I’m up to it), and a CokeTM.

Even though there is not much insight into the actual details of Snyder’s divorces, there are many issues that arose in my mind as I was reading/listening to her interview.

Issues:

Separate/Community Property – California is a community property state. The definition of community property is essentially all property acquired during a marriage or domestic partnership that is not a gift or inheritance. Here, since Snyder most likely inherited her ownership interest through a testamentary instrument, like a trust, her ownership interest in the company would remain separate property. However, depending on Snyder’s involvement in the business and its daily operations, the “community” (meaning both her and her spouse) may gain an interest in the business.

Prenuptial Agreement(s) – Did Snyder enter into prenuptial agreements with any or all of her spouses? Even though Snyder likely would be inheriting the business as her separate property, she would have been well advised to enter into a prenuptial agreement with each and all of her spouses. This is the only way to ensure that her separate property remains entirely separate, and any investments made using her separate assets (like additional stores, factories, farms, etc.) remain her separate property. After all, separate property begets separate property and community property begets community property.

Divorce – through the divorce process, the following topics would necessarily/likely have arisen:

Spousal Support – It is safe to assume that an individual in Snyder’s financial and business circumstances would have entered into premarital agreements with her spouses, which would prospectively handle issues like spousal support. However, if the issue were to arise, the court would make a determination of spousal support based on a host of factors, including the standard of living and the other spouses’ financial and professional circumstances.

Child Custody – Most parties are able to agree to a parenting plan, by which they share custody of their minor children. With children of multiple divorces, it can be a challenge to craft a parenting plan that allows for consistency and stability for the children and parents alike. If the issue of custody reaches the court, a judge will consider the best interests of the child(ren) based on relevant testimony regarding same.

Child Support – Even if the parties had entered into a premarital agreement, the court always retains jurisdiction to award or modify child support. Snyder certainly would fall into the range of an extraordinarily high income earner and that would be reflected in the support award to her ex-spouse. In addition to financial circumstances, custody time-share is also considered when making a determination regarding child support.

Attorney’s Fees – Depending on the wealth of her former spouses at the time of dissolution, a need-based award of attorney’s fees and costs could (and likely would) be made. The court considers the need of the party seeking an award of fees, the disparity in the parties’ respective incomes, as well as the other party’s ability to pay, among other factors.

The above are all deeply interesting family law issues that I wish her interview had covered… But for now, all I can think about is lunch!

[1] As described on the “About” page of iamsecond.com, “I am Second is a movement meant to inspire people of all kinds to live for God and for others. . . . The authentic stories on iamsecond.com provide insight into dealing with typical struggles of everyday living. These are stories that give hope to the lonely and the hurting, help from destructive lifestyles, and inspiration to the unfulfilled.”

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