What is a prenuptial agreement?

Married couples tend to accumulate a lot of property. Over the years, people purchase homes, furnishings, jewelry, investments and more. Depending on how long a couple is married, the amount of property can grow. Couples also come into a marriage with a lot of property -- especially as the average age of a married person increases. If a couple divorces, the property that they had before their marriage, and the property accumulated during the marriage, needs to be split.

Property division can become a contentious issue for many couples. One way to reduce the possible tension is to create a prenuptial agreement prior to the marriage. While the term is often used in the celebrity context, many people may not understand exactly what a prenuptial agreement is.

Under section 1610 of the California Family Code, a prenuptial agreement is an agreement created by two people who are contemplating marriage. The agreement becomes effective once the couple is married. In a prenuptial agreement, a variety of different topics can be addressed. Under section 1612 of the family code, a prenuptial agreement can include how the parties want to divide property in the event of a divorce. A prenuptial agreement can also include clauses about the right to control or dispose of property, the right to life insurance and any other provisions the couple sees fit.

However, California law does not allow prenuptial agreements to include clauses about child support. Nor can a party agree to waive the person’s right to spousal support -- unless the person has had the advice of independent counsel. Clauses that are illegal, or otherwise against public policy, will not be enforced by California courts.

Some people may see prenuptial agreements as unromantic or unnecessary. However, they can be a great help in protecting a person’s assets. An attorney can give specific advice -- which this post cannot provide -- for those considering a prenuptial agreement.