While writing your own prenup in California is possible, you risk having it deemed illegal, invalid, or unenforceable. Having your prenuptial agreement written or reviewed by an experienced California-licensed family law attorney ensures your contract is legal and will hold up in court.
Let’s dive into what you can do to prepare for a prenup, what makes one legal, and how a family law attorney can help with the process.
Talk to Your Partner Before Talking to a Lawyer
Deciding to get a prenuptial agreement is a strong decision that will help lay the groundwork for a fruitful marriage. But before you contact a lawyer, confirm that you’ve discussed various important premarital topics with your partner. Here are several important topics to cover:
- Financial picture (i.e., assets and debts)
- Financial goals (e.g., saving, investing, etc.)
- Defining separate and community property
- Defining roles and responsibilities (e.g., who manages finances, who works, etc.)
- Big purchase plans (e.g., home, cars, continued education, etc.)
- 1-year, 2-year, and 5-year plans
- Privacy (i.e., how much of your personal life do you want to share on social media)
- Having children and how many
- Pet custody (in the case of divorce or death)
Talking through these matters will not only help you get a clear and well-crafted prenup, but it will also help both of you communicate, build trust, and get on the same page. You and your partner will feel aligned as a unit heading into your attorney search.
BEFORE getting married, what conversations about MONEY should you have with your partner?
Use this guide to discuss budgets, assets, debts, goals, joints bank accounts and more.Get the guide
Can My Partner and I Write Our Own Prenup?
In California, you can create your own prenup, and you’re not required to hire counsel to submit a prenup to the court. However, keep in mind that the prenuptial agreement has legal requirements per California’s Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA). This can be difficult to pull off if you or your partner don’t have a legal background specializing in California family law.
The Nuts and Bolts of a Legal California Prenup
California courts will likely enforce a prenup (in the event of a divorce) if it meets these requirements:
- The final agreement is left untouched for at least seven full days before it is signed by the parties.
- Both parties must sign the agreement voluntarily and without duress.
- The agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties in the presence of a notary public (verbal agreements are not valid).
- Each party must disclose their assets and liabilities before signing the agreement.
- The agreement must be fair and reasonable at the time it is signed.
- An attorney from both sides reviewed the agreement, especially if it includes spousal support provisions. Otherwise, each party will need to waive their right to an attorney review by signing a separate agreement.
Note that prenups can’t include provisions pertaining to child support, child custody, frivolous requests, or clauses promoting divorce or law violations. Any agreement that contains such terms may be deemed illegal or invalid by the California courts.
Do Both Parties Need a Lawyer?
You and your partner have the right to have a lawyer write or review your prenuptial agreement. However, if either of you chooses not to use a lawyer, you must sign a written acknowledgment that you waive your right to an independent attorney review.
However, be aware of an important caveat: California law requires you and your partner to have an attorney review your prenup if spousal support provisions are included in the prenuptial agreement.
Benefits of Working with a Lawyer
The primary benefit of retaining an attorney is ensuring that your prenup will be enforceable in case of a divorce or death. However, don’t just hire any attorney — search for a family law attorney specializing in prenuptial agreements.
Very few family law attorneys specialize in prenuptial agreements, and many understand the ins and outs of divorce. This makes them uniquely qualified to explain to you what provisions and clauses will serve your goals effectively in case your marriage comes to an unexpected end. In other words, don’t hire a real estate or business attorney to write or review your prenup.
In addition, great family law attorneys will support you with compassion along the way and keep your best interests in mind. They’ll also respect and honor the best interests of your partner.
How Much Does a California Prenup Lawyer Cost?
Attorney rates vary wildly in the state of California, but you can expect to pay at least $5000 for a prenup attorney. The range depends on the complexity of your agreement and your location. For example, attorney costs can be higher in Los Angeles and Santa Monica counties.
Remember that paying for a prenup can save you thousands of dollars, stress, and energy in a messy divorce. In this way, paying for a solid prenup sets you up for both marital success and clear direction on how to split things in case of a divorce.
Next Steps: Finding the Right Prenup Lawyer in California
The idea behind a prenup is to head into marriage with confidence and peace of mind covering all possibilities. Talk to your partner and have deep conversations about money, your future, and unforeseen circumstances.
When you feel good about these talks, find the right family law attorney with heavy experience in prenups. It can be as simple as asking, “How many prenups have you created or reviewed in your career?” Plus, your attorney should have great listening and communication skills to help you achieve your marriage goals, and don’t settle for anything less.