California couples who are planning to get married might want to consider a prenuptial agreement. If they are already married, they may want to consider a postnuptial agreement. Both of these can help protect people financially in a divorce. While some people might think these types of agreements indicate a cynical approach to marriage, one financial planner points out that financial precautions are no different from safety precautions such as wearing a seat belt.
Even if a couple already has or does not want a prenup or postnuptial agreement, there are other steps they can take to protect their finances. Even couples who primarily share a joint account may want to consider also having their own separate accounts for managing any separate property. For example, if a person receives an inheritance and does not wish to mingle it with marital property, it should go into the individual account. If the inheritance is a piece of property such as a home and the person needs to renovate or make other changes to it, those funds should come from the individual account.
People going into the marriage with assets such as a business might want to have its value appraised prior to the marriage. It is also important to keep records of transactions, inheritances and other financial matters.
In a community property state like California, for couples who do not have a pre- or postnuptial agreement, assets acquired since marriage are considered marital property. Therefore, if the couple does not have precautions in place and they get a divorce, the assets are supposed to be split equally even if they were primarily obtained by one person. The couple might use mediation or another alternative dispute resolution process to negotiate an agreement for property division, and this does not necessarily mean they must split all assets 50/50.