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What is a prenuptial agreement?

Before getting married, some couples may have the conversation about drafting and signing a prenuptial agreement. But in some cases, this can go over about as well as wearing a Los Angeles Clippers jersey to a Lakers game. That’s because, even though prenuptial agreements are useful legal documents, they coincide with a life-changing event some may not be willing to discuss: divorce.

But while some people are familiar with the function of a prenuptial agreement, others may not, which is why we wanted to take the time this week to discuss what a prenuptial agreement is and how it can help in the event of divorce.

Prenuptial agreements, also referred to as premarital agreements or prenups for short, are legal documents signed by a couple prior to marriage. While this document is most commonly used during the division of assets portion of the divorce process, it can also be used to outline expectations for each spouse during the course of the marriage. Failing to meet these expectations can often trigger the dissolution of marriage process.

Because prenuptial agreements often specify the division of assets and liabilities in the event of divorce, disputes during asset division are generally rare, meaning litigation can be short and less costly for those involved. It’s worth noting however that these agreements not only outline asset division in the event of a divorce but they can do so in the event of death as well. This can be particularly beneficial if someone wants to pass along assets to children from a previous marriage rather than to the spouse of a current marriage.

Though it’s possible to make it through the divorce process without the help of a prenuptial agreement, it’s worth pointing out that some state laws may conflict with your wishes. Because of how assets and liabilities are divided according to California law, one spouse may end of assuming the responsibility of some of their spouse’s debt, if it was accrued during the course of marriage. This can turn any divorce into a contentious one and may require legal assistance to resolve the issues at hand.

Sources:, “Can Prenuptial Agreements Help You?” Accessed Aug. 1, 2014, “Family Code, Section 1610-1617,” Accessed Aug. 1, 2014