PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS ATTORNEY IN ONTARIO, CA
How many pages was the contract you signed when you bought your car, or when you bought your house, or even the terms and conditions for using your favorite apps? We all have written contracts in every facet of our lives, except the one situation that can have the most devastating effect on our finances — a marital contract. People don’t often think of marriage as being a legally binding contract, but it is. Your financial rights and responsibilities, as well as property ownership rights, are dramatically affected before you even get to the wedding reception.
For instance, the minute you get married, if you don’t have a prenuptial agreement, every dollar you earn is considered community property — meaning that one-half of that dollar belongs to you and 50 cents to your new dearly beloved. Similarly, when your spouse uses the credit card and charges $1,500 on that Louis Vuitton bag or that roaring motorcycle muffler, you are now responsible for $750 (one-half) of that debt.
The law in California presumes that a couple will rise and fall together during their marriage - they equally benefit from income and earnings, and they are equally saddled with debt. This comes as a surprise to many people - especially where one spouse is a shopaholic, where one refuses to work, is self-employed and doesn’t pay their taxes, or makes bad business decisions.
Here at my firm, the Law Office of Shelly Jean John, I provide legal advice to clients in Ontario, Riverside, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County, California as they prepare for marriage. For more than 20 years, I have helped clients from every generation explore the benefits of prenuptial agreements so that both individuals can have the protection they need.
HOW DO PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS WORK IN CALIFORNIA?
The good news is that if you plan ahead, you do not have to follow California’s laws regarding what is considered community property or debt. Nowadays, especially with so many people on their 2nd and 3rd marriages, people find it more important than ever to protect their finances in the event of a divorce or death. This can be done through a prenuptial agreement, drafted and signed before the marriage.
As a couple, you can decide together how you want to hold title to property purchased during the marriage, how expenses will be paid during the marriage, how property and debts will be divided in the event the marriage doesn’t work out, and how children of previous relationships will be financially treated in the event one spouse dies, and more!
It amazes me how many people don’t even talk about these things before they get married. Questions like, what is expected of each spouse regarding contribution to joint finances? How will premarital debts be paid? How will a family business be treated? What will the framework for financial decision-making be? All of these questions should be discussed and decided before invitations are sent out and wedding venues are selected.
When a couple trusts each other enough to have those tough conversations, they are in a much better position to enter into a contract that honors those decisions and protects them in the event of an unintentional divorce.
WHO SHOULD GET ONE?
Many believe prenuptial agreements only protect the assets of a wealthy spouse from a poorer one. Others believe prenuptial agreements are entered into because one or both of the parties believe the marriage will fail. The reality is that both of these are misconceptions that often lead people to believe that a prenuptial agreement isn’t right for them.
The truth is that a well-crafted prenuptial agreement can protect both parties and add a level of security to the marriage. An agreement can obligate a wealthier spouse to not leave a poorer spouse “high and dry” in a divorce. It can also establish a preemptive value for the marital contribution of a spouse who agrees to stay home to care for any children. It can also protect family-owned businesses, debt division, and inheritance for children from prior relationships.
WHY ARE PRENUPTIAL
In addition to protecting each spouse’s interests, premarital agreements provide a legal contract that sets expectations and makes the process of dissolving the marriage much smoother and less stressful for everyone. They also allow the couple to decide how assets and responsibilities will be divided should they divorce, rather than having them divided according to state law.
Prenuptial agreements require that each party fully disclose all assets and debts. This knowledge is often vital for couples entering marriage so that they can have conversations about their priorities and expectations for the marriage. Once married, the agreement protects both parties if and when the relationship ever changes and becomes untenable.
As with many other states, California observes a variation of the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act to make agreements enforceable under state law. In simple terms, the agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. Both must be of legal age and have the mental capacity to enter into such a contract, and each party must have ample time and opportunity to have their own attorney review the agreement prior to signing.
In California, prenuptial agreements can be modified or revoked in a written agreement signed by both parties.
Parties should fully disclose all assets, liabilities, and income and include a comprehensive list of these items in the agreement. Failure to do so could cause the court to find the agreement unenforceable if challenged.
A court also may find the agreement unenforceable for a number of other reasons, including if the couple does not ever get married, if a party signed an agreement under coercion or duress, or if the agreement is noticeably unequal to one party. The court does have latitude, for example, to award spousal support even if a party waived their right to it in the agreement if the court believes the waiver puts one party at a severe disadvantage.
WHAT CANNOT BE INCLUDED
IN A PREMARITAL AGREEMENT?
Premarital agreements cannot determine child custody agreements or child support in the event of a divorce. Those matters concern the rights of the child, not of the parents.
HAVE YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
BY A SKILLED FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY
Prenuptial agreements protect the interests of both parties in the event that the marriage ends in divorce, despite the best intentions of the couple when entering into marriage. What is important is to consult with your own family law attorney to ask questions, get answers, and draft an agreement that protects you, whether you ever actually need it or not.
Discussing the terms of a prenuptial agreement can help couples better understand each other’s goals and priorities. For some couples, the process strengthens their relationship. For others, it reveals flaws that are serious enough to illuminate whether or not marriage is the best decision in the first place. Either way, you deserve to have an experienced attorney in your corner to protect your interests and provide reliable guidance every step of the way.
So if you’re about to get married and considering a prenuptial agreement, call or reach out to my office in Ontario, California today to schedule a simple case consultation. I would be happy to sit down and answer any questions you and your partner may have.
PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT ATTORNEY IN ONTARIO, CA
The Law Office of Shelly Jean John is committed to helping individuals, couples, and families navigate the complexities of marital agreements. Prenuptial agreements can help you set clear expectations for a marriage intended to last a lifetime and make it easier if things ever change. If you live in Ontario, Riverside, San Bernardino County, or Riverside County, California, let me help you figure out if a prenuptial agreement is right for you. Call me today to schedule a time to talk about your options and your future.