Premarital agreements need time

Celebrities are always getting engaged in the news. The latest “are they or aren’t they” is buzzing about Hollywood It Girl Jennifer Lawrence.

Once celebrities, like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, are engaged, their legal teams clamor to draw up a premarital agreement to protect their wealthy clients’ assets.

But people don’t always have to be rich to have premarital agreements. Sometimes agreements are drafted to protect legacies or family inheritances.  Sometimes agreements are drafted to ensure present or future businesses don’t become family issues down the road.

California has several requirements for premarital agreements. One of these requirements is the premarital agreement must have been presented to the other party at least seven calendar days before the agreement was signed.  The other party also must have been advised to seek independent legal counsel when presented with the agreement.

One of the most famous cases that discussed the importance of giving the other party enough to time to contemplate and seek independent legal advice regarding a premarital agreement is In re Marriage of Bonds (2000) 5 P.3d 815, 99 Cal.Rptr.2d 252. The Bonds case involved professional baseball player Barry Bonds and his now former wife, Susann “Sun” Margreth Bonds. The day before Barry and Sun married in Las Vegas, she was asked to sign a premarital agreement. In the end, the agreement was upheld by the California Supreme Court, but the case placed every family law attorney on notice that parties needed enough time to review the agreement and seek legal counsel to help avoid an argument that the agreement was not voluntarily entered into.

So if you live in California and want to draft a premarital agreement, make sure you give yourself and your intended enough time before the wedding to properly execute the agreement. It could be the difference between a simple parting of the ways and drawn-out costly litigation.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Love’s sometimes not enough

Anyone who was around in the ‘70s, or even a child in the early ‘80s, has heard of the song “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain and Tennille.

A buoyant song that exalted love and all of its trimmings, the anthem no longer applies to its performers, Cathryn Antoinette Tennille and Daryl Dragon, a.k.a. “The Captain.” After 38 years of marriage, Tennille filed for divorce in an Arizona court in January.

Arizona, like California, is a community property state. Community property is generally any property acquired during marriage, except for gifts or inheritances.

According to an Associated Press article, the divorce petition asks for any community property, debts and obligations to be equitably divided.

For many couples like The Captain & Tennille, who would be considered to have had a long-term marriage in California since they were married for more than ten years, an equitable division of their community property may be simpler than a more complex fight over assets, debts and obligations accumulated over the tenure of their marriage.

The good thing is it doesn’t always have to be a split down the middle. For instance, if the parties have one asset that is worth $250,000, such as a home in Phoenix, and they also have a luxury vehicle roughly worth the same amount, one party may take the home and the other party may assume the car, saving either from selling the asset and dividing the resulting proceeds. In order to accomplish the rather daunting task of taking inventory of the couple’s life together, it helps to have family law attorneys who help diffuse what could be an emotionally charged process.

While it is still too early to tell whether the marriage’s dissolution will truly be amicable – you never know how one party decides to respond once served with a petition for divorce – one can hope that, as the couple’s website promises, while love may no longer be keeping The Captain & Tennille together, they will always have their music.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Good communication is key to family success

Hiring a family law attorney to help you work out child custody and support issues is important. An attorney will be better equipped to deal with how state law affects your family-sharing plan and will strive to protect your interests.

What you shouldn’t do, however, is decide to only communicate through your attorney about all things to do with your child. Unless you have unlimited resources to pay an attorney to deal with the other parent, or the other parent’s legal counsel, it would behoove you to learn to work directly with that person when it comes to simple compromises.

For example, if you want to pick up Junior for ice cream on Wednesday, but it isn’t your formal time with your son, ask his mom if she would be amenable to you taking him to the neighborhood ice cream parlor. Or if you want to take your princess to the Nutcracker matinee on Sunday morning because that’s when tickets are cheapest, ask her dad if it would fine for you to switch days that week.

Whether you like it or not, the other parent is your partner for life, or at least until your child turns 18. It’s better to learn to work together than to run up costly attorney fees because you can’t either pick up a phone or write a simple email.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Your child’s best interests

California custody law often comes down to the best interests of the children. Unfortunately, many parties forget the kids and focus instead on hurt feelings between the two parents. While it may be difficult, it’s important to take a step back from turbulent emotions and look at what your children really want. Most children would rather have access to both parents rather than just one mom or dad. And quite frankly, it’s easier on a parent to share a child – that means swapping the responsibility of school activities, school shopping and endless extracurricular activities – than it is to shoulder the burden on his/her own. Although it’s easy to believe you know better than your former partner, it’s better to work together for an amicable resolution for the sake of your children. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Married in a day, but six months to divorce

Love. It can happen at first sight and within a day, at least in Las Vegas, you could swear to honor and obey the man or woman of your dreams.

While you could theoretically be married within 24 hours, in California, you can’t be divorced any sooner than six months from the date of filing, and that’s assuming you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse agree on the terms of the dissolution.

There are several reasons for the waiting period. Most important is that the courts want to give you time to be sure you really want to dissolve the marriage.

Please note, however, that just because the six months have lapsed does not mean you are automatically divorced. Assuming the other party has responded to the Petition for Dissolution, you could be looking at anywhere from six months and a day to several years before you are formally divorced.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The first born

Welcome to Keeping It in the Family, a blog devoted to all things family law, especially as it stands in California. As legal issues arise in popular culture and in our courts, Keeping It in the Family will address them.

In addition to new issues, Keeping It in the Family will also take a look at current laws as they pertain to the family. Divorce, custody, visitation and support – nothing is off limits on this site.

And now for the standard disclaimer: Although this blog is intended to serve as a discussion forum for family law issues, it should not be taken as legal advice. If you have questions about the law, you should contact an attorney. 


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized