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Enforcing Prenuptial Agreements – In re Marriage of Wicks and Zeghuzi

Prenuptial agreements are effective legal tools that allow a couple to resolve certain issues before they get married. These include determining how property will be divided and how other issues will be handled in the event that they divorce. It is important to remember that these agreements are legally binding contracts that are generally enforceable later down the road. That’s the main takeaway from a recent case out of California’s First District Court of Appeals.

wedding ringHusband and Wife signed a prenuptial agreement shortly before they married in November 1990. Under the terms of the agreement, which they signed in Arizona, the couple pledged to treat all income and property obtained by one spouse during the marriage as separate property. That meant that each individual spouse would be entitled to all of that income and property in the event of a divorce.

Wife eventually filed for divorce in 2011, and a trial court found that the agreement was enforceable over Husband’s objection. It also denied his request for alimony and a separate request to be reimbursed for improvements that he started but didn’t finish on a home that Wife purchased.

Affirming the decision on appeal, the First District said Husband failed to show that the agreement was invalid under Arizona law. That state’s law controlled the case because that’s where the spouses entered the binding agreement. Husband argued that the trial court wrongly presumed that the agreement was enforceable, without looking into it. But the First District said Husband failed to provide them with a transcript of the trial court proceedings on which they could consider his position. As a result, the Court said he wasn’t able to prove that the lower court erred in enforcing the agreement.

The Court also said there was substantial evidence to support the trial judge’s determination that the unfinished improvements didn’t actually enhance the home’s value. The Court acknowledged that a spouse may be reimbursed for contributions to improvements to the other spouse’s separate property during a marriage. In this case, however, it said an appraiser concluded that there “could not be any value attributed to the unfinished added structure.” In fact, the Court pointed out, the same appraiser said the unfinished work could have decreased the property’s value.

As a result, the First District affirmed the lower court’s decision.

If you’re considering divorce or are grappling with community property and other related issues in California, contact San Jose prenuptial agreement attorney John S. Yohanan. With more than 30 years of experience, Mr. Yohanan is an accomplished family law attorney who has helped a number of clients resolve a wide variety of marital disputes. Call our office at (408) 297-0700 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

More blog posts:

Settlement Agreement Contract Disputes in California – In re Marriage of Wintemute and Soltan

Property Improvement and Division in California Divorce Cases – In re Marriage of Mussallem

Length of Marriage and Duty to Find Work in California Spousal Support Cases – In re Marriage of Swanson