A prenuptial agreement, also known as a premarital agreement, is a legally binding contract established between two lovebirds who are planning to get married. This agreement comes into effect once the marriage takes place (no marriage, no valid prenup). Prenuptial agreements serve as a proactive approach for both parties to define how their current and future assets and debts will be handled in the event of divorce or the passing of a spouse. Prior to entering into a prenup, it can be helpful for both parties to seek guidance from separate licensed attorneys who can answer any legal questions, add unique provisions, and review the agreement for fairness and enforceability.
What is the UPAA/UPMAA?
In 1983, the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) was formulated to create consistency across different states in regards to the enforceability of prenups. This Act aimed at creating a standardized approach to the legalities of such agreements (things like putting a prenup in writing, making sure there are two signatures, etc.). Subsequently, in 2012, a revision took place, leading to the introduction of the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act (UPMAA). As of now, twenty-eight (28) states, including the District of Columbia, have chosen to incorporate either of these established frameworks into their legal systems, further streamlining the process and regulations surrounding premarital agreements.
California (which, of course, includes Los Angeles) is one of the 28 states that has adopted the UPAA standard. You can find the laws governing California Premarital Agreements under the California Legislative Code Division 4, Part 5 §2 -Premarital Agreements.
Who can benefit from a Prenuptial Agreement in Los Angeles?
Prenuptial agreements go beyond just rich people. For example, let’s imagine a couple has a combined net worth of $10,000. You might not consider them “rich” per se, but they do have something. Who gets it? Should it be 50/50? 60/40? I’m sure the couple would have some opinions on who should get what. Well, without a prenup, the state laws and the judge assigned to the case will decide. With a prenup, they can make that determination of who gets what portion of the $10,000.
In addition, people with children from previous marriages, people on their second marriage, and/or people with businesses to protect or other unique assets are among some of the people who can highly benefit from a prenup.
The purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to ensure that the distribution of assets and property aligns with the couple’s intentions, rather than leaving such determinations in the hands of the courts. Who WOULDN’T benefit from that?
“Choice of Law”
An important factor to consider is where you live and what state law you want to govern your prenup (i.e., choice of law clause). As you contemplate your future place of residence, it’s crucial to keep in mind that a prenup executed in one state isn’t guaranteed to be upheld if you get divorced in a different state.
If your post-marriage plans involve moving out of California, seeking counsel from a Los Angeles attorney (or wherever you live) and an attorney in the potential state(s) of residence becomes imperative. This step ensures that the prenuptial agreement you draft aligns with the specific legal requirements of that state.
What Can a Los Angeles Prenuptial Agreement Contain?
A Los Angeles (or any other California city) prenuptial agreement can specify what happens to property and assets in the event of divorce, and sometimes death. In California, an agreement can specify, for example:
- What property should be kept separate
- What property should be kept joint
- How to handle gifts and family inheritances
- Responsibility for separate and shared debt
- Waiving certain rights (i.e. inheritance, will, alimony)
All of this planned beforehand can save time and money rather than leaving it to the courts to decide. In fact, for a valid prenup in California, you need to make sure you execute the prenup according to the seven-day rule. See more on this rule below.
California’s “Seven-Day Rule”
In California, both parties must wait at least seven calendar days after creating the final draft of the premarital agreement before signing it. The reason for this is that it gives both future spouses the opportunity to each get independent attorneys to review the document to ensure what they are signing is fair.
Waiving Spousal Support in California (Another Unique California Rule)
Another unique rule in California to be aware of is waiving spousal support (also known as alimony). If you waive spousal support in your California prenup you MUST have a lawyer. If you don’t touch alimony in your prenup, you do not need a lawyer. In other words, waiving alimony in your prenup requires legal representation. (Cal Fam Code § 1612).
What Makes a Los Angeles Prenuptial Agreement Enforceable?
In California, prenuptial agreements are governed by California Legislative Code Division 4, Part 5 §2 -Premarital Agreements, which follow the UPAA/UPMAA Guidelines. In order for a California prenup agreement to be enforceable must be finalized in writing, signed, and notarized before marriage. Both parties must have possession of the agreement for no less than seven (7) days before signing the agreement (“Seven Day Rule”). In addition, the agreement must be signed voluntarily, and both parties must attach a full disclosure of all assets and debts (in California it is called a “Financial Schedule”).
Although hiring an attorney for your prenup is not required in California by default, it does become a requirement if you waive spousal support in your prenup. Plus, having a lawyer review your prenup or to ask legal questions is a great tool for any prenup, regardless of your spousal support clause. If you do not want a lawyer, and you are not waiving spousal support, you must put that in writing. You must explicitly state that you are waiving your right to a lawyer in the actual prenup and if you don’t, the prenup could be unenforceable.
What Makes a Los Angeles Prenuptial Agreement Unenforceable?
A prenuptial agreement is unenforceable in Los Angeles, or any city in California, if it includes provisions that violate California law or public policy, or include provisions about child custody, child support, unlawful acts, incentives for divorce, or non-financial clauses such as weight gain clauses. A California prenup may also be unenforceable if it is deemed unconscionable (or unreasonably unfair or one-sided). Finally, California doesn’t require legal representation unless you waive spousal support, but you must actually waive your right to legal representation in the prenup itself.
Notable Cases in California with Regards to Prenuptial Agreements
Barry Bonds Sets an Important Precedent in California Law Regarding Prenups
Barry Bonds is a California legend. Okay, you know he was a baseball disrupter, but did you know he also inadvertently changed the prenup laws in California, too?
When Barry Bonds and his ex-wife Sun, an immigrant from Sweden, wed in a small impromptu wedding in Las Vegas, he had her sign a premarital agreement that had provisions for the waiver of spousal support and for keeping his property earned throughout the marriage separate. At the time the prenup was signed, Mr. Bonds had his attorneys present, while Sun had no legal representation. As you can imagine, Mr. Bonds earned quite a bit of money during the marriage due to his booming athletic career. Meanwhile, Sun stayed home and raised their two children.
When the couple divorced, Sun challenged the enforceability of the agreement stating she did not understand what she was signing due to her English skills, not being represented by an attorney, and she essentially signed under duress because she felt she had to sign it.
The agreement was scrutinized by multiple courts about the enforceability of the contract. Eventually, the court ruled in Mr. Bond’s favor, finding that the agreement was enforceable, however, it led to legislation being drafted to clarify what needed to be in an enforceable premarital agreement. Unfortunately for Sun, she wasn’t able to benefit from the new legislation.
Some of the new California laws stemming from this case include:
- If you aren’t going to have an attorney review your prenup, you must waive your right to do so explicitly in writing in the prenup.
- The seven-day rule requires seven (7) calendar days between the final draft of the prenup and the signing.
An Important Note on Spousal Support in California
This case is quite intriguing. This case brought clarity to a significant legal aspect of California prenuptial agreements. Since 2002, Californian courts have been annulling spousal support clauses that are deemed unconscionable when parties seek their enforcement (i.e., post-separation or divorce). While this rule is clear for prenups formed after that year, what about those created before 2002? Well, this case answers just that.
In 1994, Mr. and Mrs. Zucker tied the knot. During their courtship, Mrs. Zucker became pregnant and wanted to get married, although Mr. Zucker had reservations. He had acquired substantial wealth and agreed to marriage only if his future wife signed a prenup. She agreed, and they exchanged vows. The prenup established that Mrs. Zucker’s spousal support would be capped at $6,000 per month, along with a one-time payout of $10,000. Additionally, in the event of divorce, Mr. Zucker would retain ownership of their shared home.
Seventeen years and six children later, the couple decided to part ways. By this point, Mr. Zucker’s net worth was approximately $32 million. In contrast, Mrs. Zucker had not worked during the marriage and had focused on raising their children throughout their marriage.
As you might have guessed, Mrs. Zucker contested the validity of their premarital agreement, arguing that it was unconscionable considering the significant financial disparity at the time of their separation. Mr. Zucker, however, contended that the agreement’s validity should be assessed based on its conscionability when they entered into it (before his substantial wealth accumulation).
Ultimately, the court sided with Mrs. Zucker. During the legal proceedings, it came to light that in order for Mrs. Zucker to maintain a lifestyle akin to what was established during their 17-year marriage, she would require approximately $37,000 per month. (Wow!). The monthly $6,000 support stipulated by the premarital agreement was found to be unconscionable. Specifically, this clause was deemed contrary to public policy, and the spousal support provision was invalidated.
Why does this matter? California courts now have the authority to void prenups created after 1986 if they include spousal support limitations that are deemed unconscionable at the time of enforcement (a.k.a. At the time of divorce).
Differences in Expenses: Traditional Prenups vs. HelloPrenup Costs
The average expense associated with obtaining a prenuptial agreement in the United States is approximately $2,500. This figure reflects the cost of pursuing a prenup through the “conventional” route of hiring a lawyer, as opposed to utilizing an online platform such as HelloPrenup for creating your prenup. However, it’s important to highlight that the estimated cost of $2,500 is just a general approximation. Depending on your individual circumstances, the expenses related to a prenup can escalate to $10,000 or even more.
Complex financial situations or intricate prenup requirements, coupled with the choice of a high-priced attorney, can result in a substantial bill surpassing the national average cost of $2,500. Given these considerations, one might wonder about alternative solutions. Is it reasonable to pay $2,500 solely for safeguarding one’s financial interests? This is where HelloPrenup comes into play.
Contrast the standard cost of $2,500 or more with the expense associated with HelloPrenup, which stands at $599 per couple. Yes, you read that right. By utilizing HelloPrenup’s user-friendly platform for crafting prenuptial agreements, you can potentially save a remarkable $1,900 or even more. The rationale for opting for an online platform over a conventional attorney is straightforward: it offers a more cost-effective solution, a streamlined process, and empowers you to have direct control over your prenup-making process.
Even if you decide to employ HelloPrenup’s platform while simultaneously seeking a lawyer’s expertise, you’ll still get significant cost savings. Wait, what? To clear up any confusion, let’s delve deeper: HelloPrenup’s approach reduces the number of hours an attorney would otherwise spend drafting the initial prenup agreement. This process could demand anywhere from two to twenty hours of an attorney’s time. However, with HelloPrenup, you already possess a draft at your disposal.
Finding a Prenup Attorney in Los Angeles
If you’re set on getting an attorney–where on Earth do you find one? Let’s dive into the procedure for locating a prenuptial agreement attorney in Los Angeles. Here are some tips to aid you in discovering an exceptional lawyer to assist you on your prenup endeavor, whether you use HelloPrenup in conjunction or not:
- Initiate a Google Search
As with many things in life, you might begin your quest by utilizing the trusty Google search engine. Input search terms like “prenup attorney Los Angeles” or “California prenuptial agreement lawyer.” Take a look at the search results that pop up. Whatever you do, make sure to keep in mind that you need a family law attorney in Los Angeles who specializes in prenuptial agreements–No, not all family lawyers do.
- Solicit Recommendations from Friends and Family
Recommendations from trusted friends, family, coworkers, and even acquaintances can be invaluable when seeking an excellent prenup attorney in Los Angeles. Reach out to your network of people who have previously engaged the services of a family law attorney in the Los Angeles area. Personal endorsements can provide key information into an attorney’s skills. Stress that you are searching for a lawyer who specializes in prenuptial agreements, as not all family law attorneys possess this expertise.
- Consult the California Bar Association
Consult the California State Bar Association for referrals to reputable family law attorneys who specialize in prenuptial agreements. By exploring lawyer referral services offered by the California State Bar Association and narrowing down your search to family law attorneys practicing in Los Angeles, you will gain access to an extensive roster of qualified attorneys.
Getting Married in Los Angeles, California
All this prenup and lawyer talk, but what about the nitty-gritty of actually getting married in LA? From obtaining a marriage license to hosting a memorable ceremony, here is some information to help you navigate the process smoothly.
- Obtaining a Marriage License
Before you tie the knot, you’ll need to obtain a marriage license from the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office. Here’s what you need to know about that:
Requirements: Of course, both future spouses must be of age, at least 18 years old, and not already married to each other or anyone else. Valid photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, is also required.
Marriage License Application: As with most government documents, you will need to fill out some paperwork. You can complete the marriage license application online or in person at the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office. The application requires the usual stuff: personal information, including full names, addresses, and social security numbers.
Fees: Ahh, don’t forget about cost! This small fee of around $91 is worth every penny to spend the rest of your days with your love.
- Having a Ceremony
Once you have your marriage license in hand, it’s time to plan your wedding ceremony. With LA as your backdrop, the options are endless! Let’s discuss the details of having a ceremony and what’s formally required:
Timing: A marriage license in LA is only good for 90 days, so make sure you plan your ceremony within that time frame.
Venue: Whether you dream of a beachside ceremony, a garden wedding, or a simple courthouse event, Los Angeles has an array of venues to choose from.
Officiant: You can’t just hire your BFF to marry you, the officiant has to be authorized in some way. You can have a religious or civil ceremony performed by a judge, clergy member, or other authorized officiant. Make sure your chosen officiant is legally authorized to solemnize marriages in California.
- Returning the Marriage License
After your wedding ceremony, you’re not officially married just yet. Don’t forget the final step (and arguably the most important step): returning your signed marriage license to the issuing office. Here’s how:
Signatures: Both parties, the officiant, and one witness (if desired) must sign the marriage license. The officiant is responsible for completing the marriage license and returning it to the county office.
Timeframe: The marriage license must be returned for recording within 10 days after the wedding ceremony.
Recording: The Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office will record the marriage and issue an official marriage certificate, which serves as legal proof of your union.
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]