The Complexities of Pre-Nuptial Agreements

Las Vegas is a popular destination for weddings. (Reno is a popular destination for divorces, but that’s for another time.) Many celebrities get married in Vegas, and in 1988, this included former baseball star Barry Bonds. However, it’s not his wedding that made headlines as much as his divorce proceedings.

In particular, his divorce sparked a long legal case involving whether or not a prenuptial agreement his then wife, Susann “Sun” Blanco, had signed was valid. The case was drawn out and involved complex litigation, but in the end, the California Supreme Court held that the prenuptial agreement was indeed valid.

The takeaway from this case is not about Barry Bonds, but rather how complex a prenuptial agreement can be. Whether you have millions like many celebrities or simply want to protect assets you own prior to marriage, a prenuptial agreement requires compliance with the law in order to be enforceable and valid.

What Can Be Included in a Pre-Nuptial Agreement?

Nevada law includes statutory provisions for premarital agreements and defines what may be included in a valid premarital agreement. Nevada Revised Statute 123A.050 states parties may contract with respect to the following:

1. The rights and obligations of each of the parties in any of the property of either or both of them whenever and wherever acquired or located;

2. The right to buy, sell, use, transfer, exchange, abandon, lease, consume, expend, assign, create a security interest in, mortgage, encumber, dispose of, or otherwise manage and control property;

3. The disposition of property upon separation, marital dissolution, death, or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event;

4. The modification or elimination of alimony or support or maintenance of a spouse;

5. The making of a will, trust or other arrangement to carry out the provisions of the agreement;

6. The ownership rights in and disposition of the death benefit from a life insurance policy;

7. The choice of law governing the construction of the agreement; and

8. Any other matter, including their personal rights and obligations, not in violation of public policy or a statute imposing a criminal penalty.

9. The right of a child to support may not be adversely affected by a premarital agreement.

Most, if not all of these topics can be very complex and will require proper planning in order to be valid and enforceable. No one wants to think that a marriage may end, but it is better to set clear expectations about what the parties will leave with in the event of a divorce.

Enforcing a Prenuptial Agreement

Things didn’t work out and now the marriage is ending. How are pre-nuptial agreements enforced? Nevada law provides guidance on this as well in Nevada Revised Statute 123A.080, which states the following:

1.  A premarital agreement is not enforceable if the party against whom enforcement is sought proves that:

(a) That party did not execute the agreement voluntarily;

(b) The agreement was unconscionable when it was executed; or

(c) Before execution of the agreement, that party:

(1) Was not provided a fair and reasonable disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party;

(2) Did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party beyond the disclosure provided; and

(3) Did not have, or reasonably could not have had, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party.

2.  If a provision of a premarital agreement modifies or eliminates alimony or support or maintenance of a spouse, and that modification or elimination causes one party to the agreement to be eligible for support under a program of public assistance at the time of separation or marital dissolution, a court, notwithstanding the terms of the agreement, may require the other party to provide support to the extent necessary to avoid that eligibility.

3. An issue of unconscionability of a premarital agreement shall be decided by the court as a matter of law.

Contact a Family Law Attorney

Nevada laws on prenuptial agreements are not straightforward, as shown by these laws. It is best to contact an experienced Nevada family law attorney to provide you with guidance, and can insure your prenuptial agreement will be valid and enforceable if your marriage should come to an end.