The last few weeks and days before a wedding are usually filled with much joyous anticipation, even for persons entering a second or third marriage. California couples who are marrying for the second or third time may face an uncommon threat to their joint happiness: concern about disposing of substantial assets in a high asset divorce.
Individuals entering a second or third marriage may have accumulated significant wealth that they wish to pass to their children and not share with the new spouse in the event of a divorce. California’s community property laws may interfere with this plan if the couple has not addressed the issue before they marry. Another problem is created when one member of the couple has far greater wealth than the other member. A person who has been successful in business or in a professional career may be reluctant to share the fruits of those labors with the new spouse. The solution to both difficulties is a premarital agreement.
A premarital agreement is a contract between the husband and wife in which they agree to divide their community property in a proportion other than equally, as required by state law. A premarital agreement may also address other issues, such as alimony, child custody or child support. California imposes certain formal requirements to ensure the enforceability of premarital agreements. The agreement must be in writing and signed by both spouses before the wedding. Both spouses must have received complete financial disclosure from the other spouse. Each party must have been given at least seven days to review a draft of the agreement. If one party is represented by an attorney, the other party has the right to be represented by a different attorney.
Premarital agreements may appear at first glance to be the antithesis of the feelings are supposed to accompany a wedding. Nevertheless, if properly drafted, a premarital agreement can remove a significant bone of contention by addressing these issues before the wedding instead of waiting until they become a cause of significant marital discord.