Often times, engaged couples may wonder whether or not a prenuptial agreement (also known as a premarital agreement) might be a good idea. Conversely, if you are planning to get married, a prenuptial agreement may be one of the last things on your mind. Whether you plan to have one or not, it is good to at least understand the benefits of signing a prenuptial agreement in California.

What is a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is a legally enforceable contract. As such, the rules for contract formation and execution apply. If you and your fiancé are deciding whether or not a prenuptial agreement is right for you, you should consult with a knowledgeable lawyer. Family Law attorney Rick Banks can help you decide whether a prenuptial agreement in California is necessary, given your circumstances, and can draft an effective agreement that addresses all of your unique needs as a couple. Common points a prenuptial agreement addresses are: Marital property, Marital debt, children, marital responsibilities, and any limitations of the marriage. This article outlines those main benefits.

Marital Property

California, like many other states, defines community property (otherwise known as "marital property"), as assets which are accumulated over the course of a marriage. This is regardless of whether or not the assets are held under the name of just one spouse. Assets acquired prior to the marriage, including inherited assets, generally belong to an individual spouse and are not considered marital property. In the event of a divorce, marital property will be divided either by agreement of the parties or by a California judge. A prenuptial agreement in California can outline how your marital property will be divided and distributed in the event of a divorce or separation. Moreover, if your marital property includes an item that you want to keep in your birth family, including a family heirloom or a share in a family business, a well-crafted prenuptial agreement may provide for that.

Marital Debt

In addition to assets, people also bring debts to a marriage and acquire debts over the course of a marriage. This may include credit card debt or mortgage debt. A prenuptial agreement in California may be used to limit one spouse's liability for the other's debts acquired over the course of their marriage.

Children of Prior Marriages

If either spouse has children from a prior marriage or relationship, a prenuptial agreement can ensure that the children of one spouse inherit their parent's respective share of the marital property, in the event of a divorce or break-up.

Marriage Responsibilities

You may also be able to use a prenuptial agreement in California to clarify certain marital responsibilities, including:
  • Paying household bills and the amount that each spouse will pay
  • Filing joint or separate income tax returns and allocating deductions
  • Opening bank accounts, deciding whose names will be on the accounts, and determining whether the accounts will be joint or separate
  • Making large purchases, such as buying a home or motor vehicle
  • Handling credit card charges and managing records and debt
  • Paying for college or professional schools

Limitations on Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements have certain limitations, and there are certain topics which the parties may not incorporate into a written agreement. Some topics which may not be included in a prenuptial agreement in California include:
  • Provisions which limit or give up rights to future child support, custody, or visitation – Since child support, custody, and visitation decisions are always based upon the best interests of the minor child or children, the State will not enforce a prenuptial agreement that could potentially hinder a child’s relationship with a parent or a child’s right to be supported.
  • Provisions which “encourage” divorce – although a prenuptial agreement in California may establish how property will be divided in the event of a divorce, a court may view the agreement skeptically if it appears to offer a financial incentive to one or both spouses if and when they divorce.
  • Provisions which establish rules about personal matters – The primary purpose of a prenuptial agreement in California is to address financial and property concerns, should a couple divorce or separate. A prenuptial agreement should not address personal concerns, such as responsibility for household chores, having or raising children (e.g., birth control, children’s names, child care responsibilities, education, etc.) relating to in-laws and step-children, or having and caring for pets. When rules concerning personal matters are included as part of a prenuptial agreement in California, a court is far less inclined to take the agreement seriously.
  • Use of last names upon marriage – Generally speaking, decisions about the use of last names after the parties marry – or about the last names any children will use after the marriage – are not appropriate in a prenuptial agreement in California.

Contact a Fresno Family Law Attorney Today for More Information about Drafting a Prenuptial Agreement in California

An effective and well-crafted prenuptial agreement in California can save a great deal of heartache and inconvenience in the event of a couple’s divorce or separation. A prenuptial agreement may also be used to clarify marital responsibilities and generally make life easier for both spouses while they are married. For more information about drafting a prenuptial agreement in California, contact family law attorney Rick Banks at (559)222-4891, for a free consultation.
Categories: Divorce, Family Law