Miotke: Premarital Agreements

In re Marriage of Miotke (Premarital Agreements)

California Court of Appeal, Sixth District

Published Opinion, (2019) 35 Cal.App.5th 849

File Date:
Filed 5-28-2019

Peter and Natalia started their relationship in 1995, with Natalia living in Russia and Peter in the United States. Both were architects and they corresponded in English. Natalia was proficient in English. Natalia moved to California in November 1995 and became pregnant with the parties’ child a month later. She worked part-time and did bookkeeping while pregnant. After the child was born in September 1996, Natalia wanted to remain in the U.S. and the parties decided to marry. Peter wanted a premarital agreement (prenup) and was concerned about Natalia’s intention and the risk of paying her spousal support if the marriage failed. Peter obtained a boilerplate form of premarital agreement from a premarital agreement and claims he showed it to Natalia, which she denies having seen.

Peter said he told Natalia there would be a waiver of spousal support in the agreement she would get custody of their child if they separated. The parties met with a paralegal and signed a premarital agreement in October 1996. The paralegal disclosed that she was not giving legal advice to the parties and they acknowledged that their financial disclosures were exchanged at the paralegal’s office. The agreement consists of four pages with financial disclosures attached. The agreement states, “Both parties agree that in the case of separation or divorce there will be no spousal support owed by either of the parties to the other. Both parties are also in agreement that all children will remain in the custody of Natalia Zarubin upon separation or dissolution unless otherwise stipulated and agreed on by legal separation and/or dissolution of marriage.”

They also agreed if one provision was unenforceable, the remaining provisions would continue to be valid. The parties married 19 days after signing the agreement. They separated 14 years later. Natalia claimed the agreement was invalid, claiming she did not sign it voluntarily or understand its terms. The judge did not find her credible and ruled the agreement to be valid. The wife moved to set aside that ruling, and it was the denial of that motion from which she appeals and the published portion of the opinion relates. The appellate court found no reason to set aside the family court’s ruling on the validity of the agreement waiving spousal support. Note that the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act was amended in 2002, after these parties made their agreement to require counsel for a waiver of spousal support, but those amendments did not apply retroactively to agreements made before then, like the one here.

Miotke 5-28-19

The case listed here was not handled by Walzer Melcher unless the description states that Walzer Melcher appeared as counsel.