Q: How long prior to marriage should I retain family law counsel to prepare my premarital agreement?
A: Not only is procrastination the thief of time, but when it comes to premarital agreement it can mean the difference between an enforceable and valid premarital agreement and one that is not. Accordingly, each party should retain their own lawyer well in advance of the wedding date.
Under Section 1615(c) of the Family Code, a prenuptial agreement may only be executed seven calendar days after it is first circulated between the parties for it to be enforceable. As a practical matter this requires that all of the terms in your prenuptial agreement be agreed upon weeks before your wedding date.
Although we will try our best to accommodate our clients’ schedules, we strongly urge you to retain us no later than 90 days prior to your wedding date. Ideally, and whenever possibly, you should retain your family law counsel up to a full year prior to the wedding. Many premarital agreements have taken months to negotiate and finalize, and its essential that you give yourself enough lead time to permit the process to work itself out.
The seven day waiting period is one of several new legal requirements that the California Legislature promulgated in response to two significant decisions by the California Supreme Court in 2000 that were very pro-enforcement of prenuptial agreements. In re Marriage of Bonds, 24 Cal.4th 1 (2000) and In re Marriage of Pendleton, 24 Cal.4th 39 (2000).
Effective premarital agreements are not cookie cutter forms. As a result, every premarital agreement must be specifically tailored to take into account the unique circumstances and needs of each couple. The law requires detailed and personal financial disclosures to be made between parties entering into premarital agreements. In short, a valid premarital agreement that complies with the rigors of California law takes time to prepare.
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