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Do I Really Need a Prenuptial Agreement?

Not all California couples planning to marry need a prenuptial agreement, also known as a "prenup" agreement. However, you don't need to be wealthy to have a prenuptial agreement. Many couples who could benefit from a prenuptial agreement don't consider one. Here are a few reasons they should:

First, California is a community property state. Everything that goes into the marital pot is subject to equal division at divorce, whether that would be fair or not. Let's say your parents gave you and your spouse, as a wedding gift, a brand new car worth $30,000. If you divorce in a year or two, logic dictates that the car should be yours, but under California law, you and your spouse have an equal interest in it. There are numerous other examples where parties could dispute what truly is community property versus separate property.  A prenuptial agreement simply allows you to plan for property division based on what you and your spouse would consider fair and address the property items you both have prior to marriage and what would happen to those items in the event of a separation or divorce.  

The second reason to consider a prenuptial agreement in California is simply that it's far less expensive and stressful to agree on something now than it is to fight about it later. This is especially true in the case of businesses or other complex assets. Rather than spending thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars on appraisals and legal fees in a divorce, for far less you can reach a reasoned, logical agreement on many issues to avoid potential litigation.  

Lastly, prenuptial agreements can actually help a marriage succeed. If you and your intended spouse learn to negotiate financial issues and agreements before marriage by creating a detailed agreement, you've created a blueprint for successful financial communication during marriage.

San Diego Bar AssociationSection of Family LawCalifornia State Bar Family Law American Bar Association Avvo Clients' Choice 2014