Before prenuptial agreements became popular, prenup requirements across state lines were wildly inconsistent. This created a lot of confusion, especially when couples moved states only to discover their prenup wasn’t valid under the new state’s laws.
The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) aims to eliminate this confusion by unifying prenup laws between states.
Here’s how the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act works and impacts your California prenuptial agreement.
History of the UPAA
The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform Laws created the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act in 1983 to standardize prenup laws across the USA.
The goal of the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act is to ensure a premarital agreement validly entered into in one state is honored by the courts of another state, where a couple might seek a divorce.
The kicker is that each state has to adopt the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act individually. On top of that, states can adopt the UPAA in whole or in part and have the flexibility to modify requirements.
So, while there’s more uniformity in prenuptial agreements than there used to be, it’s still not even across the board.
Which States Have Adopted the UPAA?
Today, nearly 30 states have adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. The states that have adopted the UPAA are as follows:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
Remember, while most states have adopted the UPAA, their prenup laws and requirements still vary.
This article will focus on Uniform Premarital Agreement Act requirements in California. Be sure to research your own state’s requirements before finalizing your prenuptial agreement.
Evolution of Prenup Law in California
In 2012, the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act was modified to become the Uniform Prenuptial and Marital Agreement Act (UPMAA). The act now also accounts for postnuptial agreements, plus a few other updates, including:
- Defining prenuptial agreement
- Establishing prenups must be in writing
- Clarifying that prenups that are unconscionable at the time of execution are invalid (as opposed to at the time of enforcement)
- Establishing that prenups signed involuntarily or under duress are unenforceable
Additionally, in January 2020, AB 1380 amended California Family Code 1615 (c), imposing new procedural requirements for negotiating and signing premarital agreements.
This legislation introduced a mandatory seven-day waiting period (“The Seven-Day Rule”) from the completion of the final agreement until its signing.
The goal is to prevent last-minute substantive changes to the agreement terms. This helps avoid situations where prenups are hastily negotiated, creating imbalances in bargaining power between the parties. Without this, you won’t have a valid California prenup.
The most recent update to California’s prenup law came in 2022 based on the Zucker vs. Zucker case. Before 2002, the California Family Code dictated spousal support limitations could not be enforced if they were unconscionable when the agreement was executed.
After 2002, the code was updated to measure the unconscionability of spousal support limitations or waivers when the agreement was enforced.
Mr & Mrs Zucker had a prenup from 1994 with a spousal support provision granting a monthly payment of $6000 to Mrs Zucker should they divorce. However, Mr. Zucker’s wealth had grown considerably since the creation of the prenup. When Mrs Zucker challenged the prenup in court, the court sided with her even though their prenup predated the 2002 standards.
As a result, the case set a precedent in California. Now, the court can overrule spousal support provisions in your prenup if it deems them grossly unreasonable at the time of divorce, regardless of which laws the prenup was created under.
What’s Covered in the UPAA/UPMAA in California?
The UPAA/UPMAA is the governing law for prenuptial agreements in California.
The main rules of the UPAA/UPMAA in California are:
- A prenup is an agreement that two prospective spouses sign before marriage.
- The prenuptial agreement isn’t effective until the date of marriage.
- The prenuptial agreement is in the form of a written contract.
- Both parties voluntarily signed the contract.
- Each party received complete information about the others’ properties, debts, and income.
- Each party has one week to seek independent legal counsel after completing the prenup (and before signing), known as “The Seven-Day Rule.”
- The prenup must be notarized to be valid.
Additional details on the laws governing California prenups can be found in California Legislative Code Division 4, Part 5 §2 – Premarital Agreements.
What NOT to Include In Your Prenup
The UPAA/UPMAA also provides guidelines on provisions that may not be addressed in your prenuptial agreement. In California, these include anything related to:
- Child support and child custody
- Spousal maintenance requirements (if the signing spouse decided not to seek independent counsel)
- Violations of the law or illegal activity
- Terms considered deceptive or unconscionable
- Specific lifestyle clauses, such as infidelity clauses
Including any of the above provisions may render a prenuptial agreement null and void in California courts per the UPAA/UPMAA.
Getting Your California Prenup Right
Before the UPAA/UPMAA, there was no guarantee your prenup would hold up across state lines. Now, couples have more assurance that their prenup will stand regardless of where they live.
If you’re interested in taking the next step in creating your prenup, don’t hesitate to book a consultation call. As a California prenup lawyer, I’m well-versed in the intricacies of prenuptial agreements and how to create one that’s legally sound and mutually beneficial for you and your partner.