Several years ago, the phrase “conscious uncoupling” was introduced into the cultural lexicon when actress Gwyneth Paltrow and singer Chris Martin used it to describe the process of entering into a divorce after 10 years of marriage. While scoffed at by some as a feel-good label to sugarcoat a difficult process, the intention behind the phrase was an accurate and noble one: couples who are ending their marriage can do so with amicability and mutual respect for each other’s needs and desires as they enter into the next chapter of their lives.
The more recent news that actor Johnny Depp did not have a prenuptial agreement in his apparently stormy marriage to Amber Heard, on the other hand, suggests that there could well be long and bruising divorce proceedings as the actor is reportedly worth over $400 million. Certainly, it might go without saying that having a prenuptial agreement would likely lessen the amount of money that might go to Heard in the proceedings, but there are other lessons about prenuptial agreements worth taking into consideration for couples hoping to maintain amicability and respect regardless of how their marriage works out.
A prenuptial agreement (or “premarital agreement”) is essentially a document that lays out the agreed-upon terms of how finances will be handled between two spouses should the marriage come to an end. Both parties have the ability to work with one another to discuss their concerns and needs so that they can reach an agreement which will provide for the needs and preferences of both spouses.
By creating such an agreement prior to the marriage, they are able to reach this meeting of the minds at a time when they are both sympathetic to one another’s concerns and issues, and they can avoid the high legal bills and prolonged uncertainty that come up with trying to work these issues at a much later time when communication may have broken down between the couple and emotional obstacles have arisen between them.
The couple can also proceed through the marriage without unnecessary fears and suspicions about what the other spouse might do in a divorce should the relationship sour. By reaching a mutually beneficial agreement before the fact, there is less incentive for either party to be tempted to use financial leverage to manipulate the marital situation. Because both parties know how they will be treated upon divorce, they can focus on the emotional and relational work of the marriage, knowing that both parties’ financial futures are ensured should things not work out.
The Myth About Prenuptial Agreements
A common myth about prenuptial agreements is that they are used by one spouse to take advantage of the other spouse. Specifically, the worry is that one spouse will use a prenuptial agreement to prevent the other unsuspecting spouse from being able to get the financial support that is rightfully theirs in divorce. Although such examples may have occurred in the past, California law imposes requirements on prenuptial agreements to prevent that from happening.
Both spouses must be represented by their own independent counsel in agreeing to a prenuptial agreement, meaning both spouse will have the chance to consult with their own attorney about their rights and responsibilities under California law so that they are fully informed before they sign an agreement. Furthermore, a prenuptial agreement will only be legally operable if the presiding family court judge signs off on the agreement, and this will only occur when the judge is convinced that both parties entered into the agreement per the requirements of California law.
To schedule a consultation regarding your questions about prenuptial agreements, contact one of the family law attorneys at Kearney Baker today at 626-768-2945.