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Do Postnuptial Agreements Hold Up During a Divorce?

Posted on November 15th, 2023

Going through a divorce is an overwhelming and often emotional process. When it comes to dividing assets and settling financial matters, having a clear agreement in place can be crucial. Many couples turn to postnuptial agreements as a means of defining the terms of their financial relationship after marriage. However, a common question that arises is whether these agreements hold up during a divorce. This guide seeks to find answers.

Postnuptial Agreements


Postnuptial Agreements in the Context of Divorce

Postnuptial agreements are created after the marriage has already taken place. These legal documents outline how assets, debts, and other financial matters will be handled in the event of a divorce or separation.

In California, postnuptial agreements are generally recognized and can be enforceable. However, various factors can impact their validity. It is important to note that the agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties willingly. Additionally, full and fair financial disclosure is crucial for the enforceability of the agreement. If either party fails to disclose assets or debts honestly, it may raise questions about the agreement’s validity.

Voluntariness and Fairness

California law places a significant emphasis on the voluntariness and fairness of postnuptial agreements. Courts are likely to scrutinize the circumstances surrounding the creation of the agreement to ensure that both parties entered it willingly and without coercion. If there is evidence of duress, fraud, or undue influence, the court may be less inclined to enforce the agreement.

Full Disclosure Requirement

One key aspect that often determines the fate of a postnuptial agreement in California is the requirement for full financial disclosure. Both spouses must provide complete and accurate information about their assets, liabilities, income, and expenses. Failure to disclose material information may render the agreement unenforceable.

Legal Representation

To strengthen the enforceability of a postnuptial agreement, it is advisable for both parties to seek independent legal advice. Having separate attorneys can help ensure that each spouse fully understands the implications of the agreement and is not under any undue influence. While it may seem like an additional expense, legal representation can be an investment in the future validity of the agreement.

Circumstances That Can Change Postnuptial Agreements 

Postnuptial agreements are designed to address the financial aspects of a marriage at a specific point in time. However, circumstances can change, and what was once fair and reasonable may no longer be so. Some of the changes might include;

  • Financial changes: Financial situations are prone to fluctuations. It could be due to job loss, career advancements, or successful investments. When significant financial changes occur, a postnuptial agreement may need to be revisited to ensure its continued fairness. For instance, if one spouse experiences a substantial increase in income after the agreement is signed, the court may scrutinize whether the original terms remain equitable.
  • Property appreciation: Real estate and other investments can appreciate over time. If the value of assets included in the postnuptial agreement experiences a considerable increase, it might lead to questions about the fairness of the initial terms. In such cases, a court might assess whether the agreement disproportionately benefits one party due to the appreciation of specific assets.
  • Health issues: Health concerns can also significantly impact the dynamics of a marriage. If one spouse faces a decline in health after the agreement is executed, the financial implications of medical expenses and potential changes in earning capacity may need to be re-evaluated. Courts may consider the impact of health issues on the fairness of the original agreement.
  • Unforeseen life events: Life is unpredictable, and unforeseen events can occur. These events may not have been contemplated at the time the postnuptial agreement was created. If such events substantially alter the financial landscape of the marriage, it may be necessary to review and potentially modify the agreement.

It is important to note that postnuptial agreements cannot determine issues related to child custody and support. In California, these matters are determined based on the best interests of the child, and any attempt to address them in a postnuptial agreement may be deemed unenforceable.

Let Harris Family Law Group Help You

Postnuptial agreements can hold up during a divorce in California if they meet certain legal requirements. Seeking legal advice and updating the agreement when necessary can contribute to its strength in the eyes of the court. If you are considering a postnuptial agreement or have questions about its enforceability, consulting with our experienced family law attorney at the Harris Family Law Group can provide the guidance needed to handle this complex legal terrain.