Sometimes, when a couple marries, they enter into a “marriage contract” that provides for the payment of money to one party, generally the Wife, in the event of a divorce, often referred to as a “dowry”. That person is often surprised when, during their divorce, they discover that these agreements are generally unenforceable under California law.
While a couple is free to enter into a Premarital Agreement prior to their marriage, California Courts have found that “agreements which facilitate divorce or separation by providing for a settlement only in the event of [a divorce] are void as against public policy”. What does this mean? It means the Court will not honor an agreement where one party receives a benefit, only in the event of a divorce. This is viewed as an incentive to divorce (or “profiteering by divorce” as one Court called it) and that is contrary to public policy.
This is different from a Premarital Agreement which merely defines the rights and obligations of the parties, and defines whether certain assets are community property or separate property, irrespective of whether the parties divorce or not. Those agreements can be enforced (provided the proper procedures are followed). But an agreement which only confers a benefit in the event of a divorce, will not likely be enforced by the Court.
Before entering into any sort of Premarital Agreement or contract, you should consult with an experienced Family Law Attorney. Feel free to Contact Us to schedule an appointment for a Free Consultation to discuss your particular situation.
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