Prenups in California: What You Need to Know

Prenups in California: What You Need to Know

Susan R.  Miller
 | 

Every time we read about a celebrity divorce, it seems that we learn some juicy information about their prenuptial agreement. From cold, hard cash and multimillion-dollar homes to jewelry and even tickets to sporting events, celebrities use prenups to ensure their financial futures.

 

However, celebrities and others with lots to lose are not the only ones who might want to consider signing a prenuptial agreement.

 

What is a prenuptial agreement?

 

Although they vary from state to state, a prenup is basically a contract signed before a couple ties the knot and becomes effective once they do. It stipulates who gets what in the event the marriage doesn’t last. Since financial issues can be a major cause of stress for married couples, having a prenuptial agreement is one way to alleviate such concerns.

 

In California, the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act has been in place for 35 years. Those items covered in a California prenup can include real estate, income, retirement accounts, current and future assets, inheritances, earnings, and death benefits from life insurance policies.

 

It also can cover a spouse’s debt so that the other spouse doesn’t get saddled down with owing money they didn’t initially borrow (such as a student loan) before getting married. Pets also can be included in a prenup.

 

Why should you sign a prenuptial agreement?

 

While couples may be reluctant to sign a prenuptial agreement because it feels like they don’t trust each other, unless one has a good crystal ball, there’s no predicting if the marriage will last.

 

If a couple doesn't sign a prenup in California, then the divorce will be dictated by the California Family Code and Probate Code. Signing a prenup protects both parties from having the courts decide who gets what.

 

What is required when you sign a prenuptial agreement?

 

Couples will want to hire a family law attorney to help negotiate and draft a prenuptial agreement. Both parties should have their own attorney to protect their individual interests and to make sure it’s fair. While it may cost more upfront, it may save you in the long run, plus he or she will be able to advise you on what you can and cannot put into it.

 

For example, in California anything relating to child custody or support can not be included in a prenup.  It also can’t include language that requires a spouse to perform an illegal act or clauses that might demand a spouse lose weight or change their appearance.

The prenuptial agreement must be in writing; the courts will not enforce a verbal agreement.  They also will not enforce an agreement if one of the spouses is forced to sign it or if unfair terms are included. The prenup also can be thrown out if it’s determined that one spouse hid or undervalued assets. It also must be shown that the party signing the agreement waited a minimum of seven days before signing it and had the legal capacity to enter into the agreement.

 

Can a Prenup be Changed?

 

While prenups generally are for the lifetime of the marriage, there are times when a spouse may want to change it. For example, if a couple is married for a decade or two and the family’s finances have changed considerably. It is possible to change the prenup if both spouses agree to those changes.

 

If you believe the prenup you signed years ago is unfair and your spouse isn’t willing to renegotiate, then you may want to reach out to a family law attorney for help.

 

No one wants to consider splitting up before the “I dos” are exchanged, but divorce is a fact of life. Having a prenup not only can save a lot of time and money on litigation during a divorce, but it also can help reduce stress since you already have a plan in place dictating how finances will be divided.

 

Family law is complex and often filled with emotions. Couples planning to get married should reach out to one of our family law attorneys for help in drafting a prenuptial agreement.

 

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.

 

 
Susan R.  Miller

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