Sacramento Lawyer Drafts Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
Protections for your property in the event of divorce
California is a community property state, so the law presumes that each spouse is entitled to 50 percent of the marital estate. But if you don’t clearly distinguish between your separate and marital property, you could lose much more than you imagined possible in a subsequent divorce. At the Law Office of Stephanie L. Williams, we help clients protect their personal assets through carefully crafted marital agreements. We draw on experience litigating the validity of such contracts to ensure the agreement you execute will stand up to court scrutiny. If you anticipate dissolving your marriage, and you have a marital agreement, we can defend or challenge its validity during your divorce proceedings.
Creating a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in California
A prenuptial or premarital agreement is a contract a couple executes prior to entering a marriage or domestic partnership. The agreement should list in detail any assets or debts the parties wish to designate as separate property. Couples can also define their future rights and obligations, including alimony and child custody, in the event of a divorce. Couples may not contract away an obligation to provide child support, since the right to support belongs to the child.
California will consider a premarital agreement valid if there is no evidence of:
- Coercion or undue influence — The execution of the agreement must be voluntary. Any threats or manipulation that might override the signer’s free will renders the agreement invalid.
- Fraud or misrepresentation — One party cannot deceive the other about the contents of the agreement or about any rights being given up by signing.
- Procedural and substantive unconscionability — Both parties must make a fair and reasonable disclosure of their assets and debts, and the agreement cannot be unjustifiably one-sided.
- Violation of public policy — Courts will not enforce a contract that violates public policy. For example, the agreement cannot be interpreted to promote divorce.
Couples who are already married can also choose to enter a marital agreement. However, the marital relationship makes each a spouse a fiduciary of the other, with a duty to act in the other’s best interests and a duty of full disclosure. So, among other reasons, a failure to act in good faith could invalidate the marital agreement.
How to execute a valid prenuptial agreement in California
A prenuptial agreement provides significant protections in marriages between two-career couples, couples with children from a first marriage, and couples with a wide disparity of wealth. But you cannot enforce your rights unless your agreement is valid. Steps to executing a valid prenup include:
- Consulting an attorney — Ideally, both parties should be represented by counsel who can look out for their interests.
- Making a full financial disclosure — Both parties must be completely transparent about their assets and debts.
- Negotiating in good faith —A contract signed under duress is not valid. Negotiations should take place well in advance of the wedding to avoid the impression of an implied threat. In fact, California requires a seven-day cooling-off period before parties can sign a completed prenup.
- Sign the document with all necessary formalities — Parties should sign the document in front of a notary public.
By retaining an experienced family law and divorce attorney, you get the benefit of knowledge and experience when creating your agreement.
Trust a board-certified family law attorney in Sacramento for your marital agreement
A prenuptial or postnuptial marital agreement can provide significant safeguards for your property. At the Law Office of Stephanie L. Williams, we negotiate, draft and review documents to protect our clients’ rights. To learn more, call 916-407-0544 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.