California Prenuptial Agreements: Are They Enforceable?

Understanding California Prenuptial Agreements

In California, as in many other states, couples who are planning to marry may choose to enter into a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement, commonly referred to as a "prenup," is a legal contract created by two people before they marry. This contract typically outlines the ownership of their respective assets should the marriage end in divorce or death.

Enforceability of Prenuptial Agreements in California

Prenuptial agreements in California are generally enforceable if they meet specific statutory requirements. Under the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA), which California has adopted, prenups are considered valid if they are executed voluntarily and with a full and fair disclosure of the assets and debts of both parties.

For a California prenup to be enforceable, it must be:

An example of how these principles have been applied can be seen in the landmark case In re Marriage of Pendleton & Fireman. In this case, the California Supreme Court held that a premarital agreement was enforceable where both parties were well-informed and entered into the agreement freely and with an understanding of their rights.

Limits of Prenuptial Agreements

It's important to note that there are limits to what can be included in a prenuptial agreement. For instance:

Challenging Prenuptial Agreements

A spouse can challenge the validity of a prenuptial agreement on various grounds such as lack of voluntariness, absence of fair disclosure, or if it was signed under duress or undue influence. For example, in In re Marriage of Bonds, baseball player Barry Bonds' premarital agreement was upheld even though his spouse claimed she did not understand the implications when she signed it because she had adequate opportunity to obtain independent legal advice.


Prenuptial agreements in California are generally enforceable if they adhere to legal standards for fairness and voluntariness. Couples considering a prenup should ensure they understand their rights and obligations before signing. When properly executed, these agreements can provide clarity and peace of mind for both parties entering into a marriage.