Is My Premarital Agreement Valid After The New Bill Passed In California?

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Dena A. Kleeman - Family Law - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Dena A. Kleeman

Located in Beverly Hills, CAKleeman • Kremen Family Lawyers

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California’s newly enacted premarital agreement law creates new hurdles to negotiating and signing premarital agreements and could make some past agreements invalid. The bill applies to any agreements drafted since 2002 and all agreements made moving forward. While California has a history of strict laws about the process of negotiating and signing premarital contracts that affect your property and support rights, the new bill makes it even more difficult to “follow the premarital agreement rules.”  What’s worse, the bill, which is designed to make sure parties carefully consider agreement terms before signing, may render past agreement invalid. 

Under the new bill, agreements may be invalid if:

  • One party did not have a lawyer when the agreement was drafted and signed
  • Substantial changes were made seven or fewer days before signing

Prior to this bill, it was not clear whether a couple needed to have a final draft within seven days of signing. Now, you may lose protections you thought you had if changes were made too closely to the signing date.

What To Do If Your Agreement May Be Invalid

In California, if the validity of an agreement is challenged, the party defending the agreement’s validity must prove that the document was executed with certain formalities.  These formalities are designed to ensure the agreement terms were carefully considered and understood before signing. In most states, the process is opposite. This means that if you feel as though you have entered into a premarital agreement that you do not agree with, it is your partner’s responsibility to prove the signed agreement is valid.

If you want an agreement that is enforceable or if you are afraid that your premarital agreement is suddenly invalid, both you and your partner must work with separate attorneys to sort out the matter. An experienced legal professional can help educate you about your specific situation, your risks and how to reach your goals under the new laws.

When Should I Draft A Premarital Agreement?

While it’s common for couples to negotiate and sign premarital agreements shortly before their marriage date, this is now much riskier in California.  If you want the benefits of a premarital agreement that changes how property is owned, held and managed during marriage, plan well ahead of your wedding date. Begin the discussion early and you will have the best chance of a signing a lasting agreement that will survive the nastiest divorce. 

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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