“Brangelina” Engagement Illustrates Need for California Prenuptial Agreement

Angelina Jolie Brad Pitt CannesLast month, celebrity Brad Pitt proposed to his partner of seven years, Angelina Jolie. The couple, collectively known as “Brangelina” has been one of the most talked-about celebrity couples since they first started dating in 2005, after filming Mr. and Mrs. Smith as costars in that movie. Though the couple had long maintained that they would not marry “until everyone in [the United States] had the right to get married,” they apparently changed their minds for the benefit of their children. The couple currently has six children together, three of whom are adopted.

Both Pitt and Jolie have substantial assets to their names. According to some estimates, Pitt is worth about $150 million, while Jolie holds her own at about $120 million. While a prenuptial agreement is important for any couple’s marriage planning, it is especially important for two individuals with as much separate property as Pitt and Jolie have.

A California prenuptial agreement is a legally binding agreement between two persons engaged to be married and governed in California by the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. The agreement takes effect upon marriage. Under what is known as the statute of frauds, a prenuptial agreement must be in writing to be enforceable at law.

California law prescribes what may and may not be addressed in a prenuptial agreement. In particular, a prenuptial agreement may not address child support or custody. This limitation is particularly noteworthy in cases such as Pitt’s and Jolie’s as they have six children together.

A court will generally find a written prenuptial agreement enforceable unless:

  • A party’s agreement was not voluntary; or
  • The agreement was “unconscionable” when executed, which occurs when all of the following are met:
  • The party did not have a fair, reasonable, and full disclosure of the assets and obligations
  • The party did not provide a written waiver to full disclosure
  • The party could not have reasonably known of the undisclosed property or obligations

While it is not known whether Pitt and Jolie have executed a premarital agreement, many speculate that they surely have. Some critics of prenuptial agreements argue that the agreements stifle the notion of “’til death do us part” and kill the romanticism inherent in newly engaged couples. However, this argument is akin to saying that insuring one’s house and possessions against a fire all but strikes the match. Preparing for the unexpected is not only wise; it also preserves the possibility of an amicable split, should any split occur at all.

San Diego family law attorney Roy M. Doppelt has over 20 years of experience in family law. His practice includes drafting prenuptials, assisting in child custody arrangements, and advising people through the complex and often difficult process of divorce. We proudly serve clients in San Diego, Carmel Valley, Del Mar, and throughout Southern California. For a free confidential consultation, contact Doppelt & Forney, APC online, or call us at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).

Photo credit: Georges Biard [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons