If you're considering getting married and if you have assets of any significance or you think you might develop assets of any significance during the marriage that you would rather not share with your spouse, you might need or want a pre-nup. That's a pre-marital agreement, sometimes called a prenuptial agreement. It's just a contract between you and the person you are going to marry that says who gets what in the event of the marriage unraveling. These are very hyper-technical documents and they are not the kind of things that can be drafted by people who have no experience doing it. This is not the kind of thing that you can just pull up on the internet and fill in the blanks. California in general, wherever you live, Ventura County, Los Angeles County, no matter where you live, California has a very sophisticated set of laws and cases that govern premarital agreements. This is not for the faint of heart; drafting a premarital agreement is like handling nitroglycerin: it can in fact blow up in your face when you need it the most. This is not a situation where you can just write something down on the back of an envelope and get the person you're marrying to sign it. This is your estate, your assets, your things, your money; you want to protect it. It's going to change over time, and you don't want any of the complicated laws of the California Family Code to impact your rights and your responsibilities with respect to your money and your estate. The purpose of a pre-marital agreement can be phrased in many many ways; it can be justified in many many ways; but the truth of the matter is that it is a very effective devise for financial planning for the future. And as I said, you really need to seek an experienced attorney who knows how to draft a pre-marital agreement, how to defend a pre-marital agreement, and if you signed a pre-marital agreement that is working against you in the context of your divorce you want to find an attorney who knows how to attack a pre-marital agreement and try to get it set aside.
If you're wondering if you can just sit down with your soon-to-be spouse and write down a pre-marital agreement on a piece of paper and whether that will be valid, the short answer is maybe. It's a very technical area of the law; there are a lot of procedural requirements; in certain instances lawyers have to be involved with certain kinds of agreements, like post-nuptial agreements for example that married people enter into after marriage that basically function in the same way as a pre-marital agreement. That said, if you and your spouse sit down and write the provisions of a contract down on a piece of paper and you both sign it, you've got a contract. Whether or not it will actually meet all of the hyper-technical criteria and requirements of an enforceable and valid pre-marital agreement is something that really can only be decided on a case-by-case basis. This is one of those areas of the law where you really should not try to navigate those waters without an experienced pre-marital agreement family law attorney working with you and advising you.