Most people have heard about prenuptial agreements, contracts couples sign before getting married to protect their assets. They make sense for people who come to the marriage with substantial assets, like a successful business or extensive real property holdings, or with children from prior marriages. If one person has far more property and income than the other, they may want to resolve any future property division disputes in an agreement.
Coming To Terms: Postnuptial Agreement As Peacemaker
Less commonly known, the postnuptial agreement is a contract entered into after marriage. Like the pre-marital agreement, postnuptial agreements spell out essential terms of the marriage. It covers property division, spousal support, and debt allocation but may include inheritance and insurance declarations for estate planning. If a couple eventually divorces, their postnuptial agreement may resolve significant disputes of the divorce.
To be legally valid, California Family Code Section 1615 requires the agreement to be in writing and voluntarily signed, meaning without either party coercing the other to sign by force, threat, or blackmail, for example. Each must sign before a notary, with full knowledge of what they are signing. The terms must be clear, and both spouses must fully disclose their assets, debts, and income. It must also be fair. A judge presiding over a divorce might not honor a one-sided postnuptial agreement. To ensure validity, each party must review the contract with their attorney, each party having an attorney who understands their wishes.
Reasons for the postnuptial agreement are as varied as the people who enter it, but three typical reasons for a postnuptial understanding are settling property division and spousal support, waiving inheritance rights, and anticipating divorce. When couples divorce in California, they split assets and debts, but child custody and spousal support are awarded depending on many factors.
Rather than the courts deciding what happens to their property, earnings, and obligations, they can take control over their lives with an agreement. A properly prepared and executed postnuptial agreement can bind the parties regarding spousal support, inheritance rights, property division, and debt allocation. However, it cannot decide child support and custody; still, it can make divorce simpler when the parties already agree to necessary divorce decisions.
Plan Now To Save Time, Money, And Sanity Later
Since many people come to marriage with property and children, the postnuptial agreement sets out clear expectations and protections for the one with greater assets or the children’s rights to inherit from their biological parent. It protects not only parties to the marriage but also clarifies financial and other matters arising in the marriage.
So, you can spend your life with the person you love who may not be as responsible as you are with your finances, or rest assured that your children will have support after you are gone. Though you cannot cover all matters that may arise during a marriage, you can secure some.
Throughout a marriage, so much life occurs. Couples have children, start businesses, build retirement savings, get sick, stay home to raise children, or fall victim to substance abuse. No one can predict what happens over the life of a marriage. When circumstances change, the postnuptial agreement can address those developments.
So, when one spouse inherits a fortune, or when one party changes, becoming abusive, financially irresponsible, or addicted to alcohol or drugs, the postnuptial agreement helps sort out fundamental rights and responsibilities in the leisure of one’s home rather than in a stressful courtroom.
Contact A Knowledgeable Family Law Attorney For Your Postnuptial Agreement
To create a clear, comprehensive, and legally binding postnuptial agreement, you may need legal help. Engage a family law attorney who knows how to draft an agreement that a judge will approve, one based on your needs. Your attorney can offer advice through their vantage point of handling divorces and experience writing agreements.
Call or email Bruce A. Mandel, divorce and family law attorney, who will expertly craft or review your postnuptial agreement. Be sure to follow us on our Facebook page for more California family law matters.