Postnuptial Agreements in California Divorces

Postnuptial Agreements in California Divorces

Jan and Mike married when they were young and too in love to think about complicated things like finances and assets. After a few years, they started considering asking their attorneys to draft a document that addressed their new-found concerns. As they reviewed drafts of the document, Jan had some unwelcome thoughts about whether postnuptial agreements would hold up in a California divorce. She needed to learn more.

What are postnuptial agreements?

Unlike premarital agreements, these contracts are made by an already-married couple. Such agreements typically address property issues and the division of assets. 

Typically, postnuptial agreements must meet requirements set out by California contract law. For example, the agreement:

  • Must be in writing, and
  • Must be signed voluntarily by both spouses before a notary public.

Also, both parties must be honest and fully disclose their property interests when drafting the agreement.

Why would a couple want to sign this type of agreement?

There are several reasons, including:

  • One spouse has more assets than the other.
  • Either husband or wife expects to inherit or otherwise come into a lot of money.
  • One or both parties want to protect their assets from the other.
  • The couple cannot agree on how to handle their assets, including savings, investment accounts, and retirement accounts.

However, child custody and support issues cannot be addressed in such agreements.

Do courts recognize postnuptial agreements in California divorces?

Premarital agreements are recognized by the court as soon as they are signed. This does not mean every provision will hold up in court, but at least the agreement is acknowledged. On the other hand, postnuptial agreements are not valid until they have been presented to a family court and accepted by a judge.

California law does not directly address postnuptial agreements. However, California Family Code Section 1500 states:

“The property rights of spouses prescribed by statute may be altered by a premarital agreement or other marital property agreement.” [emphasis added]

So, provisions regarding property in postnuptial agreements might be upheld in court. The exception will be if the provisions violate the law in some other way.

Call to learn more about postnuptial agreements.

Postnuptial agreements could either complicate a California divorce or make it easier. Have you and your spouse signed one? If so, and you now want to dissolve your marriage, contact an experienced California divorce lawyer for advice.

Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys. Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.