The Basics of California Prenuptial Agreements

As you think about your upcoming California wedding, you probably don’t want to consider the possibility of divorce. You, in your love-induced bliss, may assume that nothing could ever come between you and your partner, and that you will remain together “until death do you part.” Hopefully, that will be the case. However, statistically speaking, today there is still about a 50 percent chance that a first marriage will end in divorce. For subsequent marriages, the statistic is even greater; about 72 percent of these marriages fail.

So, knowing the stark truth about your chances of success, what can you do now to protect your assets and interests should your marriage end? Simply put, you need a prenup.

Dispelling myths

Contrary to popular belief, prenuptial agreements (also called “premarital agreements”) are not limited to the very wealthy, nor are they used to ensure that one partner is denied his or her fair share of marital property in a divorce. Furthermore, prenups are not the proper forum to set forth specific provisions for one spouse to follow like promising to not gain weight or that dinner will always be at 6:30 pm.

Instead, prenuptial agreements should be thought of as a form of “divorce insurance.” When you buy a new car or home, you purchase insurance to protect your financial interests in the event that something unpleasant happens in the future. The same is true about your marriage. A prenup is a way to protect both parties’ financial interests while avoiding conflict in the future. By having financial arrangements made, there is one less thing to debate if the relationship goes south.

Potential uses

Perhaps the most common use for a prenuptial agreement is to set aside certain property for one spouse should the couple divorce. For example, a prenup could dictate that Joe’s family business remain with him if he and Mary end their marriage, but that she is, under California’s “community property” laws, entitled to a portion of the income from the business during the marriage. The same is true of medical practices or other professional businesses.

Prenups are commonly used in subsequent marriages to protect assets for one party’s children from a previous relationship. This can both prevent legal wrangling following a divorce and give a parent peace of mind knowing that his or her children have been provided for.

Another use of prenuptial agreements is to establish certain aspects of spousal support/alimony. A provision could be included in a prenup stating that the higher-earning spouse will pay the lesser-earning spouse a certain amount of alimony if the marriage lasts a certain length of time, or that the lesser-earning spouse will receive a specific lump sum alimony payment following a divorce.

It’s not too late

Should you discover after the marriage begins that you would like the financial protections offered by a prenuptial agreement, it’s not too late. The same goals can be met by signing an agreement – known as a “postnuptial agreement” – while married.

Seek the advice of an experienced San Diego, CA family law attorney if you think that a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is necessary for your California marriage. Once a qualified San Diego divorce attorneys are involved in the process, you can feel confident that your financial interests will be protected.