Can a Postnuptial Agreement Save Your Marriage?

I recently had an attorney friend share her story about how a postnuptial agreement saved her marriage, and I share it with her permission.  She had used separate assets earned prior to the marriage to pay large expenses for two children via IVF and gestational carriers.  The couple was one year into marriage, and she said she was building resentment for his lack of contribution to the expense of the children.  She discussed a postnuptial agreement, wherein he agreed to pay her a large sum in the event of divorce, which both thought was fair, since her assets had been severely depleted with the fertility expenses.  She agreed to stop threatening divorce and agreed to pay him a certain sum if she moved out of their home within the next year.  This in an example of how a postnuptial agreement can be useful in many situations where After the postnuptial agreement was signed, she felt peace of mind knowing that her financial position was more protected than previously, and he felt relief that she would be incentivized not to threaten divorce or move out. This story illustrates the advantage of a postnuptial agreement when the parties may not be at the point of divorce, but they have issues that need to be discussed or resolved.

How Can A Postnuptial Agreement Help a Marriage?

At the beginning of a relationship, you may not fully know who your spouse is or what their habits are.  Your spouse may not have been completely forthright with you about finances, fidelity or other issues.  A postnuptial agreement can help you discuss and resolve some of these issues, possibly setting yourselves up for a more peaceful and positive marriage in the future.  A postnuptial agreement can address a wide variety of issues such as committing to therapy, promising to refrain from infidelity, or clarifying financial responsibilities. Sometimes making a commitment through a contract can help motivate the parties to improve their effort in the marriage.   

What Is A Postnuptial Agreement?

In California, a postnuptial agreement is a legal document that protects the parties’ assets in the event of a divorce. Similar to a prenuptial agreement, the postnuptial agreement guides the court on terms that should apply in the event of a divorce.  The laws relating to Postnuptial Agreements in California can be found here:

What Are the Requirements for a Valid Postnuptial Agreement in California?

Unlike prenuptial agreements that are valid once completed, the postnuptial agreement is not considered a valid agreement until filed with the family court and accepted by a judge. Additionally, neither party can be forcer or coerced into signing the agreement.  It must be in writing and have the signatures of both parties and be notarized.  Finally, the agreement must be clear, transparent and fair.   

What Is Not Allowed with a Postnuptial Agreement?

  • You can’t threaten, deceive or force your spouse into signing. 
  • You can’t create an agreement that is “unconscionable,” meaning it is unreasonably in favor or against one the parties. 
  • You can’t hide assets, debts, income or property from your spouse with the intention to trick them into a postnuptial agreement.  

A postnuptial agreement isn’t helpful for every marriage, but if is a tool that may help you, please contact the Law Office of David Knecht, at 707-451-4502 for more information.  We have extensive experience in family law and can help you decide if a postnuptial agreement is right for you.