Les Divorcés: The Life and Wives of Donald Trump

Donald Trump is the second divorced US President (following President Reagan)—and the first with multiple divorces. Add to that his extreme wealth and renown, and he officially has one of the most notable divorce histories in, well, history. Here is a rundown of his prenups, marriages, affairs and divorces.

Act I:

Ivana  Zelnickova, Model, Champion Skier — Married April 7, 1977— Dec. 11, 1990

Ivana ZelnickovaLong before Donald Trump was POTUS, Ivana became America’s first lady of divorce, coining the phrase, “Don’t get mad, get everything!” Following twelve years of marriage and three children, Donald had a highly public affair with another blonde model, Marla Maples, thus ending the Ivana era in what was possibly the most high profile divorce of the nineties.

Remember the ‘Aspen incident’ including the famous run-in where Ivana reportedly approached Maples and said, “You bitch – leave my husband alone!”?

Ivana was arguably the first woman to be so proactively public with her divorce, entering the ring with confidence, openness, and no shame. The debutante divorcée famously advised other ex-wives to “Go for half” as, according to the Chicago Tribune, Ivana challenged a prenup that had a $25 million ceiling.

She argued the prenup was unfair on the grounds of Trump’s “cruel and inhuman treatment” and his extra-marital affair (later the details of this lawsuit would be highly sought after in Trump’s 2016 run for the presidency, to little end.)

Meanwhile, Marla began to emerge from the various Trump suites and yachts where she’d been hiding out, to newfound troves of media, “Ivana wants a billion,” Maples told Vanity Fair in a 1990 interview, “but we just don’t have it.”

In the end, Ivana’s challenge was denied. Still, Trump reportedly had to pay his first wife $14 million in cash, $350K in annual spousal support, plus $300K/year in child support – and you thought your alimony was bad! She also scored their 47-room home and an apartment in Trump Plaza. Furthermore, she became the poster girl for liberated women, owning her divorce with pride, appearing in a tell-all interview with Barbara Walters (for which Trump threatened to pull alimony), and later making a cameo in First Wives Club.

Act II:

Marla Maples, Model — Married December 20, 1993 – June 8, 1999

Marla MaplesFor Donald Trump, the first cut was the deepest – at least to his pocketbook. When it came time for round two of prenup design, Trump was wiser for the wear. First off, he reigned it way in from the $25 mill ceiling Ivana had challenged.

Second, he slapped the prenup on his blushing bride-to-be just five days before their 1993 wedding. Post-divorce Maples reported not having had the time to properly go through the prenup – perhaps she was too busy deciding which hairstyle to wear down the aisle. What bride wants to have a meeting with a lawyer to talk about divorce at the most ‘romantic’ time of her life?

As a side note, I recommend almost all marriages have prenuptial agreements. It is just statistically a wise thing to do and can save everyone a massive headache later. I also recommend doing it well before the wedding when you are still capable of thinking about things beyond the seating arrangements.

Four short years after the wedding day, Donald and Marla separated. This time, the wife was the one allegedly having an affair – she was allegedly seen romancing on a Florida beach with Donald’s bodyguard and the two divorced in 1997. Marla could have probably tried to fight the prenup but decided not to.

She reportedly wanted peace, though when he first considered a run for presidency she did speak out against him, “If he is really serious about being president and runs in the general election next year, I will not be silent,” said Maples, according to the London Telegraph. “I will feel it is my duty as an American citizen to tell the people what he is really like.”

Marla accepted the $2 million settlement plus child support. Donald kept their 5th Avenue apartment and the rest of his reported 5 billion dollar empire, which he had rebuilt from near bankruptcy during their marriage. Unlike Ivana, she actively decided not to challenge the prenup because she simply wanted things to go back to “normal” – whatever normal looks like for a Trump ex-wife.

Like Mrs. Trump before her, Marla went on to be a symbol for 90s divorce, eventually becoming the host of the reality show, Ex Wives Club and later appearing on Dancing with the Stars.

Act III:

Melania Knauss, Model — Married January 22, 2005-present

Melania Knauss with Donald TrumpMelania is the third model Donald Trump has married and the first First Lady to have posed au naturel for a magazine. This time, Trump is said to have protected himself with the most iron-clad prenup of all. He openly claims he feels it has made his marriage stronger. “It’s a hard, painful, ugly tool,” Trump told NY magazine. “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.’”

Mr. Trump went on to compare a prenup to a crystal ball, saying that, “If a couple can make it through the cold, sobering legal process and still manage to be on speaking terms at the wedding, the marriage has a chance. If not, it was never meant to be.” Whether or not that is actually the case, it was a wise decision to execute a prenup as it is reported that third marriages have a 73 percent chance of divorce.

Prenups among the famed and glamorous are, or should be, standard fare but this is one case where the rich are not different – if you are getting married, do your homework and do a prenup.

Jacqueline Newman is a New York divorce and matrimonial lawyer, managing partner of New York City’s premier 5th Avenue divorce law firm and author of a new book: Soon To Be Ex: A Guide to Your Perfect Divorce and Relaunch (Sutton Hart, April 2017).

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