Court Discusses the Unconscionability of Prenuptial Agreements in California

Many people living in and around San Diego have substantial assets. As such, they will often ask their prospective spouses to enter into prenuptial agreements before they wed. The California Courts will generally enforce prenuptial agreements unless unenforceable under Family Law Code Section 1615, with some exceptions. For example, a Court may decline to enforce part or all of an agreement on the grounds that it is unconscionable. In a recent California opinion, the Court discussed when unconscionability is assessed in a matter in which it rejected portions of a prenuptial agreement despite the husband’s objections. If you have questions regarding the enforceability of prenuptial agreements, it is wise to promptly confer with a San Diego prenuptial agreement lawyer.

History of the Case

Allegedly, the husband and wife entered into a prenuptial agreement in 1994 that defined their rights and obligations with regard to spousal support and community property. The case proceeded to trial, during which the Court considered, among other things, whether the prenuptial agreement should be enforced. The Trial Court ultimately ruled that the provisions in the prenuptial agreement that limited the wife’s right to spousal support were unconscionable and declined to enforce them. The husband appealed, arguing that the Trial Court erred by determining whether the terms were unconscionable at the time of enforcement instead of when they were drafted.

Evaluating the Unconscionability of Prenuptial Agreements

The Appellate Court rejected the husband’s reasoning and affirmed the Trial Court’s determination. The Appellate Court noted that the wife struggled with mental health issues throughout her life and that she and the husband had vastly different assets when they entered into the prenuptial agreement. Additionally, the agreement provided very little for the wife in terms of property division and spousal support in contrast to the husband’s means and the couple’s standard of living.

While the Trial Court determined that the wife entered into the prenuptial agreement voluntarily, without any coercion, fraud, or distress, it found it to be unconscionable and refused to enforce the provisions pertaining to spousal support. The Appellate Court illustrated the long and convoluted statutory history surrounding the enforceability of prenuptial agreements, ultimately explaining that the Courts retained the right to shape public policy with regard to prenuptial agreements and declared that a spousal support provision in a prenuptial agreement can be deemed unenforceable as against public policy due to the fact that it is unconscionable at the time a party seeks to enforce it. As such, the Appellate Court affirmed the Trial Court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced California Family Law Attorney

Prenuptial agreements can help people protect their rights and assets, but if a Court finds a provision of an agreement to be unacceptable, it may decline to enforce it. If you or your future spouse intend to seek a prenuptial agreement, it is prudent to meet with an attorney to evaluate your options. The experienced San Diego family law attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC can assess the facts of your case and help you to determine what measures you can take to safeguard your interests.  You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at 800-769-4748 to set up a free and confidential conference.

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