A premarital agreement, also called a prenuptial agreement, is a written agreement entered into by a couple prior to marriage or registering as domestic partners. The agreement delineates the economic aspects of their relationship using private choice instead of the rules of state law. Many state law rules that are automatically applied when a couple marries, such as the rule that earnings acquired during marriage or a domestic partnership are jointly owned, can be altered by written agreement.
Premarital Agreements establish the property and financial rights of each partner in the event of a divorce. They are often used to protect the assets of a wealthy spouse but can also be used to protect family businesses, as well as serving other valuable functions.
Some of the provisions of a premarital agreement are:
Issues like child custody and child support cannot be addressed in premarital agreements.
California sets forth very specific requirements to assure that a premarital agreement is valid upon divorce or death. For one, it must be written and signed by both parties and be properly executed. Some of the reasons a premarital agreement may be found invalid are:
It is also possible for couples to enter into agreements after marriage. These agreements are called Postmarital Agreements and are established for many of the same reasons as a Premarital Agreement. It is important that partners disclose the full extent of their assets and debts in a Postmarital Agreement as they are engaged in a "confidential" relationship under the law and cannot take financial advantage of each other.
Unmarried couples who are living together can also form relationship agreements to establish and protect their rights very similar to a Premarital Agreement. Cohabitation agreements for unmarried couples can be determined either orally or in writing and follow requirements similar to any valid contract addressing issues like distribution of property, financial support, the creation of a joint tenancy, support, custody, visitation rights and more.