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What Connects California Prenuptial Agreements and Barry Bonds?

 Brian Pakpour      December 28, 2015

prenuptial agreementIn California, spouses have the right to alter their property rights in the event of a divorce or legal separation by entering into a premarital agreement. Fam. Code §§ 1500, 1612(a)(3).  These agreements are often also referred to as “prenuptial” or “antenuptial” agreements.

Today, in order for a premarital agreement to be valid it must be in writing and signed by both parties. The agreement becomes effective on marriage and may be amended or revoked only by a written agreement signed by the parties. Fam. Code §§ 1613-1614.

Quite surprisingly, the history of the law on premarital agreement was shaped, in part, by Barry Bonds. While most people know Barry Bonds as the famous All-Star San Francisco Giants baseball player, what they don’t know is that the California legislature adopted a law, Family Code section 1615(c), based on the outcome of his divorce in the case, In re Marriage of Bonds, 24 Cal.App.4th 1 (2000).

Prenuptial Agreement Held Valid by California Supreme Court

In 1988, Barry Bonds married his now ex-wife, Sun. The day before the parties married they entered into a written premarital agreement in which each party waived any interest in the earnings and acquisitions of the other party during the marriage. Sun signed the agreement despite having no legal counsel, while Barry Bonds had legal counsel. At the time of the marriage, Barry Bonds was worth approximately $106,000.

Six years later, when Barry Bonds was earning substantially more money, the parties filed for divorce. In the divorce, Sun sought to have the premarital agreement deemed invalid based on the fact that she was not represented by legal counsel when she signed the agreement. The case went all the way up to the California Supreme Court, which held that the parties’ premarital agreement was in fact valid. The Court found that one party’s lack of independent counsel was only one factor among several in determining whether a premarital agreement was entered into voluntarily.

Legislature Adds More Legal Hurdles to Prenuptial Agreements

After the case was decided, the California Legislature enacted Family Code section 1615(c), which overrules most of the Courts holding in the Marriage of Bonds case.

Family Code section 1615(c) presumes that a premarital agreement is involuntary entered into unless the court finds all of the following:

  1. The party against whom enforcement is sought was represented by independent legal counsel at the time of signing the agreement, or, after being advised in writing to seek independent legal counsel, expressly waived, in a separate writing, representation by independent legal counsel;
  2. The party against whom enforcement is sought had at least seven calendar days to review the agreement before it was signed;
  3. The party against whom enforcement is sought, if unrepresented by legal counsel, was fully informed in writing, in a language in which the party was proficient, of the terms and basic effects of the agreement and made written acknowledgment of the receipt of the information; and
  4. The agreement and writings mentioned above were not executed under duress, fraud, or undue influence, and the parties did not lack the capacity to enter into the agreement.

Some people often refer to these as the “Barry Bonds rules,” since it was his divorce matter that prompted the California legislature to pass the law that includes them.

Prenuptial agreements may be invalidated for many reasons. That is why it is crucial to have the assistance of an attorney when drafting one. If you own property, or plan to own property, that is worth protecting with a prenuptial agreement, then it is worth hiring an attorney to draft it.

Call Pakpour Family Law today at to discuss prenuptial agreements and other family law issues:
530-302-5444 (Davis)
925-998-7009 (Pleasanton)

We can assist you with any family law matter in the following counties:

Yolo County, Solano County, Placer County, and Sacramento County