Just in Time for Valentine's Day, a Primer on Prenups

February 15, 2012
By Thomas M. Huguenor on February 15, 2012 6:00 PM |

1377807_75600706_02152012.jpgValentine's Day is a time to celebrate love and romance, or at least to buy flowers and fancy dinners. While no rigorous scientific studies have been conducted on the issue, it is also a time for marriage proposals of varying degrees of creativity and success. With so much romance in the air, it may seem like the last time that couples would want to talk about something so technical and unromantic as prenuptial agreements ("prenups" for short). It is most definitely something couples should discuss, though, before they run off and get married.

In California, the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act governs prenups and lays out some ground rules. A prenup is an agreement between two individuals who are engaged to be married, which will take effect upon the event of their marriage. It can cover issues relating to property and financial issues, such as how to handle property owned before the marriage, how to characterize property acquired during the marriage, and how to divide property in the event of a divorce. A prenup cannot predetermine issues relating to child support or child custody, and it cannot dictate obligations of either spouse in non-financial matters, such as cleaning the house or visiting the mother-in-law.

Many people believe, incorrectly, that prenups are only necessary for couples where one spouse has substantial assets, or where there is a big difference in the ages of the couple. Anyone with any amount of assets, including people with established careers and people remarrying should give serious consideration to a prenup. People who already have children should consider a prenup in order to safeguard a legacy for those children. This is not to say that a new spouse would overtly interfere with such a legacy, but rather that California family law can complicate a person's financial arrangement when they remarry, unless they plan ahead.

Prenups are becoming more acceptable in society, although calling them "popular" may not be entirely accurate. No two marriages are alike, and spouses are embarking on a variety of financial arrangements in their marriages rather than necessarily pursuing the traditional merging of finances. Economic factors, namely the economy being bad, might make a prenup an effective method of helping spouses keep their finances sorted.

The two most important rules governing prenups are that a prenup must be in writing and must be fair. “Fair” means that the parties must disclose all relevant financial information, a party must not coerce the other party to sign, and both parties must fully understand what they are signing. The law requires that the parties wait seven days from the day they first see the proposed prenup before they sign it.

In addition to sharing financial information, people considering a prenup should consult with experienced California family lawyers. Yes, that was plural. A sure-fire way to see a judge shoot down a prenup is to sign one without each spouse first consulting their own counsel. Yes, this occurs at the beginning of what will hopefully be a beautiful marriage, but each person signing the prenup needs to make an informed decision with the guidance of a legal professional.

For more than 35 years, San Diego certified family attorney Thomas Huguenor has represented people finding their way through the California marriage and divorce process. For a free and confidential consultation, contact him today online or at (858) 458-9500.

More Blog Posts:

California Divorce Report: Russell Brand's Unique Wedding Gift to Katy Perry Never Left India, San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, January 26, 2012

The Kardashian/Humphries Wedding Saga Continues with a Divorce, San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, November 11, 2011

Divorce California Style, San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, May 31, 2011

Photo credit: 'Roses for love' by Bev Lloyd-Roberts on stock.xchng.