Court orders support despite prenuptial agreement

Prenuptial agreements are common in states with community property laws such as California. These agreements allow couples to determine how property division and spousal support will be addressed should a divorce occur; however, they do not allow spouses to avoid certain obligations. A recent high-profile case dealing with prenuptial agreements involved a California man who married a Turkish immigrant and signed an I-864 Affidavit of Support.

An I-864 Affidavit of Support is a federal document in which a sponsor pledges to provide financial support to an immigrant who plans to settle in the United States. The affidavits are designed to prevent immigrants who marry and then divorce U.S. citizens from becoming dependent on society. The man in question signed an I-864 Affidavit of Support for his future wife, and the couple also signed a prenuptial agreement that denied spousal support in the event of a divorce.

After the couple divorced in 2012, the man’s former wife filed a federal lawsuit claiming that she should receive support under the I-864 Affidavit of Support. A district court judge ruled in the man’s favor because his former wife was being supported by her son, but an appeals court vacated that ruling on June 8. The Ninth Circuit judge ruled that taking the son’s financial support into consideration amounted to an unfair windfall for the man.

While prenuptial agreements may sometimes appear to be an attractive option, they must be entered into voluntarily and be essentially fair if they are to withstand legal scrutiny and challenge. Experienced family law attorneys may encourage their clients to conduct prenuptial or postnuptial agreement negotiations in good faith and disclose all of their assets. Attorneys could also point out that some matters, such as child custody, visitation and support arrangements, cannot be included in prenuptial agreements.