This photo provided by Facebook shows Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan at their wedding ceremony in Palo Alto, Calif., Saturday, May 19, 2012. Zuckerberg updated his status to "married" on Saturday. The ceremony took place in Zuckerberg's backyard before fewer than 100 guests, who all thought they were there to celebrate Chan's graduation. (AP Photo/Facebook, Allyson Magda Photography)

Reuters San Francisco

Getting married was a smart business move as well as a personal milestone for Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, with the timing of the wedding, the day after the company’s initial public offering (IPO), potentially proving particularly advantageous, California divorce lawyers said on Sunday.

Assuming the couple signed a prenuptial agreement, as most wealthy Californians do, Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan would have agreed exactly how to split assets, including his Facebook stock, if their marriage dissolves in the future. Even without a prenup, the wedding’s timing would help establish the value of their assets in the event of any future divorce battle, lawyers said.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the couple signed such an agreement.

Chan and Zuckerberg live together in the modest house in Palo Alto, California where they were married on Saturday.

The couple met as undergraduates at Harvard University in 2004. Zuckerberg, now 28, dropped out of college to work on Facebook, while Chan, a pediatrician, stayed to earn her undergraduate degree in 2007.

Chan’s work led to Facebook creating an organ donation page. The pair recently travelled to China.

Had they continued the status quo, Chan could potentially lay claim to a much larger portion of assets, including a chunk of his $20 billion (R166bn) in Facebook shares, lawyers said.

“In California, people who live together without the benefit of marriage could claim they had an agreement to pool resources and efforts,” lawyer Robert Blevans said. Although they were hard to prove, “those claims can get really ugly”.

Blevans cited the case of Anthony Maglica, the founder of the company that makes Maglite flashlights.

In 1994, an Orange County court awarded $84 million to Maglica’s girlfriend Claire, who took his name and lived with him for 23 years.

Although an appeals court reversed the award in 1998, she later negotiated a $29m settlement.

The same logic – avoiding messy court fights – enters into the calculus of a prenuptial agreement. page 21