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Sunset Clause in a California Prenuptial Agreement

Posted by Furman & Zavatsky | Oct 17, 2019

The primary purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to provide married couples with peace of mind. Often, just asking for a “prenup” is considered having little to no faith in the success of an upcoming marriage. However, the trend for many California marrying couples is to agree on a prenup to hash out specific details of a potential divorce from the beginning.

The thought process is there would be little room for interpretation in a situation where the couples decide to divorce later down the road –  because a prenup will provide an outline each spouse's obligations and entitlements.

Sunset Clause in a California Prenuptial Agreement

Typically, marrying couples who have significant assets or own a lot of property will make the effort to obtain a prenuptial agreement. It's not a secret in Los Angeles that some people don't get married simply because they are in love.

There are situations where people use marriage in an attempt to obtain their partner's assets in divorce. This is one of the reasons why prenuptial agreements exist as they provide an outline of obligations each spouse has in the marriage, and what type of behavior could dissolve the marriage.

Couples take a variety of different paths toward marriage. When the finances a couple brings into their marriage are complicated, a prenuptial agreement can help provide a smooth path forward. When one or both soon-to-be spouses already have children of their own, a prenuptial agreement can be a necessary tool to clarify future inheritances.

Far from being an indictment of your impending marriage, a prenuptial agreement is simply a legal contract that delineates how your assets will be divided if the marriage should end in divorce – or when one of you dies.

As such, many couples with prenuptial agreements include sunset clauses that outline how the agreement will evolve – or end – as your marriage evolves. If you have concerns regarding a prenuptial agreement, consult with an experienced Los Angeles divorce lawyer today.

The Sunset Clause

A prenup can have several clauses, including one of the most important known as a “Sunset” clause. This specific clause covers how the prenuptial agreement ends. Spouses can arrange a sunset clause however they want – and most will include them in their prenup on the assumption after so many years of marriage – it won't no longer be necessary in their marriage.

In most cases, a sunset clause will dictate an of a prenuptial agreement after a certain amount of years of marriage. For instance, a couple could decide on a sunset clause that states the agreement will expire after 20 years of marriage. This is basically saying that after being married for so long, any doubts that existed which were the cause of the prenup have now ended, and the prenup is no longer necessary.

In other words, a sunset clause in a prenup is typically a clause that describes when the prenuptial agreement will be terminated – after X number of years, for instance.

After 20 years of marriage – for example – many couples believe that their unions will have proven to be stable and that any prenuptial agreements – at that point in their relationships – will no longer be necessary. Some sunset clauses, on the other hand, phase the prenuptial agreement out gradually over time.

Phased Sunset Clauses

While a traditional sunset clause allows for the contract to expire after a specified number of years, a phased sunset clause works a bit differently. A phased sunset clause outlines how changes in the contract will evolve over time.

For instance, alimony that one former spouse pays the other after 5 years of marriage may be substantially different than the alimony he or she would pay after 10, 15, or 20 years of marriage.

Generally, a phased sunset clause will nullify parts of the contract over time. As more separate property transforms into joint property – as the marriage matures – more and more of the prenup is voided.

Some couples use important events to trigger their sunset clauses. For instance, a couple to draft a sunset clause to go into effect if the couple has a child, they are still married on their tenth anniversary, or they reach any other relationship landmarks.

Why Do We Need a Prenup?

The fact is that not everybody needs a prenuptial agreement. If you're both relatively young and are at about the same place in your lives – just starting out and before you've amassed much in the way of assets – a prenup might not be necessary.

If, on the other hand, you're in very different places in your lives and/or there are complicated issues involved, you'll want to consult with an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney. Said complicating issues can include:

  • One of you has a great deal more wealth, property, or other assets than the other
  • One or both of you have complicated finances, such as if one of you owns a business
  • One or both of you have children from a prior relationship

The divorce rate is so high in the United States that it isn't unreasonable to at least consider the possibility that your marriage could end prematurely. Prenuptial agreements and sunset clauses can provide important peace-of-mind to both parties. You need to understand some provisions cannot be included in a postnuptial agreement.

The Philosophy behind the Sunset Clause

When one party entering into marriage has far more wealth than the other, he or she has to look at the facts. If the wealth of one party's soon-to-be spouse factors into the decision to marry, the wealthier party has little recourse if the marriage ends after a few years.

With a prenuptial agreement, the wealthier party has a legal contract that protects much of his or her wealth in such an instance. The prenup, however, cannot be unconscionable – or extremely unfair – regarding the less wealthy spouse.

The sunset clause, on the other hand, can provide the spouse with less wealth the peace-of-mind that comes from knowing his or her spouse wants to compromise on the matter and isn't on the fence regarding the marriage.

Los Angeles Divorce Attorney

If you're seeking a prenup, you need professional legal counsel from an experienced Los Angeles divorce lawyer. A prenuptial agreement can be a useful tool in a marriage, but protecting your rights is imperative. If you're considering a prenup or if you've been asked to sign a prenup, you need a knowledgeable divorce lawyer on your side.

Our dedicated legal team serves clients throughout Southern California, including the greater Los Angeles area and the San Fernando Valley. We have the experience, skill, and commitment to help you. To schedule a free consultation, contact or call us at 818-528-3471.

Furman & Zavatsky
15821 Ventura Blvd #690
Encino, CA 91436

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