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A prenuptial (or pre-marital) agreement is a legal contract devised prior to a marriage that defines the status of the couple’s financial matters during their marriage and, perhaps more pointedly, in the event of a divorce or legal separation. Legal principles affect the validity and enforceability of these agreements, and there are important limitations on what they can govern. If you would like advice on drafting, negotiating, reviewing, enforcing, or challenging a prenuptial agreement, the San Diego prenuptial agreement lawyers at Doppelt and Forney, APLC can help.Prenuptial Agreements are Appropriate in Many Marriages
Given that roughly half of all U.S. marriages end in a divorce, it is perhaps surprising that more couples do not consider prenuptial agreements to potentially avoid legal wrangling down the road. Part of the reason may be that people perceive prenuptial agreements as only useful for the wealthy. But this is not necessarily so.
Usually, state law governs how married couples hold property during a marriage, as well as matters such as the amount of spousal support that must be furnished and the property that must be divided upon the divorce, or how an estate can distribute property upon death. A prenuptial agreement, by contrast, allows the parties leeway to define for themselves their own terms regarding these matters. For example, the prenuptial agreement can define how property will be controlled and managed, preclude the creation of community property, limit the amount of spousal support that must be provided upon divorce, and so on. Even if a couple starts their married life with little or no property, a prenuptial agreement can establish at the outset how they will treat their future earnings and assets. A prenuptial agreement attorney at our San Diego firm can help you draft this type of instrument.
The more familiar case for a prenuptial agreement, of course, is when one of the spouses owns significant separate assets (that is, property owned prior to the marriage, or received during the marriage through gift or separate inheritance) or makes considerably more income than the other. Separate assets remain the sole property of the owner; upon divorce or death, the other spouse has no legal claim upon them. In these cases, a prenuptial agreement can further protect those separate assets, and it can allocate ownership of earnings as well as any additional assets purchased with those earnings—for example, by limiting the amount of spousal support provided upon divorce. In addition to making a possible future divorce less contentious, an agreement may be especially important for a spouse who has children, whether from a prior marriage or as a product of the marriage, and who wants specific assets to go directly to their children upon death.
While some people believe that prenuptial agreements exhibit pessimism or distrust, others believe that there are advantages. They encourage a frank discussion about financial matters prior to the marriage, and they address decisions about financial matters when both parties are getting along, rather than waiting until their relationship breaks down—if such a time does come. A prenuptial agreement may even help the marriage by establishing clear expectations about financial and other matters.
There are limitations on what a prenuptial agreement can address, as our San Diego prenuptial agreement attorneys can explain. It may not dictate child custody or child support, for example. Furthermore, while a prenuptial agreement can address spousal support, a court will not enforce a support provision that is unconscionable or contrary to public policy at the time that either party is seeking to enforce it. Prenuptial agreements can delineate which assets are separate, define how separate assets will be maintained, determine how assets and income will be held and managed during the marriage as well as upon divorce or death, allocate debt responsibility, and so on.
While California courts may enforce a prenuptial agreement, they will review both the circumstances under which it was executed—such as whether both parties fully disclosed their financial holdings, freely entered into the agreement, and obtained legal advice prior to signing it—as well as the terms of the agreement itself to ascertain whether enforcement would be just. It is very important to review Family Law Code Section 1615, which discusses prenuptials not being enforced in some detail.For Assistance with a Prenuptial Agreement, Call Doppelt and Forney, APLC
Whether you need help in drafting, executing, enforcing, or challenging a prenuptial agreement, a prenuptial agreement lawyer at the San Diego firm of Doppelt and Forney, APLC can assist you. For a free in-person or virtual consultation, call 800.769.4748 or contact us online. We serve people in San Diego, Chula Vista, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, La Jolla, Point Loma, Coronado, Del Mar, Ramona, El Cajon, La Mesa, and surrounding communities.