Like a prenuptial or premarital agreement, a postnuptial agreement is a legal contract that allows a married couple to define the ownership of their respective assets. However, as the name implies, postnuptial agreements are signed after a couple has already entered into marriage or a civil union. Like a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement can address spousal support (alimony) and clarify the division of all property or assets acquired individually before the marriage and all community property accumulated during the marriage.
One of the primary purposes of a postnuptial agreement is to overrule the state of California’s default rules of splitting community property and providing for spousal support in the event of a divorce. As we discussed in the context of prenuptial agreements, you do not need a postnuptial agreement to maintain consistency with the default rules, such as property owned prior to marriage, inheritances and gifts, all being categorized as separate property. A postnuptial agreement can, however, be useful in circumstances where a couple wants to clarify the parties’ separate property that existed prior to marriage and how that property will be treated during the marriage if community money or effort is expended on such separate property.
Again, as with prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements, which are typically viewed skeptically by judges because they can provide the spouse with a higher income or asset base an avenue by which to take financial advantage of the other spouse, hold more weight if each party signing the agreement has it reviewed by an independent attorney prior to signing with each such attorney acknowledging that their client has discussed and understands the agreement. Postnuptial agreements also do not address in any way issues relating to a couple’s children, such as child support, custody, and visitation, as these issues are decided at the time of a divorce based on the best interests of the children.
If you are interested in signing a postnuptial or prenuptial agreement with your spouse, please contact Your Contract Lawyer regardless of whether you would like to have a completely new agreement drafted or an existing but unsigned agreement reviewed.