The case involved the marriage of San Francisco Giants All-Star baseball player Barry Bonds. Bonds was earning $106,000 annually when he married his ex-wife (Sun) in 1988. Prior to getting married, Bonds asked Sun to sign a prenuptial agreement that waived any interest in his earnings and acquisitions during the marriage. Sun signed the agreement despite not having a lawyer present, while Bonds was represented by an attorney.
The parties were divorced six years and two children later at a time when Bonds’ salary was much higher than when the prenuptial agreement was signed.
Sun sued to have the prenuptial agreement ruled invalid. Sun argued that because she did not have a lawyer present at the time she signed the agreement, it was unenforceable, and demanded more money for both spousal and child support.
The case first went to the California Court of Appeal, who determined the prenuptial agreement was invalid. This ruling was appealed all the way up to the California Supreme Court, who found the prenuptial agreement to be valid, deciding in favor of Barry Bonds. The court concluded that the prenuptial agreement was entered into voluntarily, and it was fair to enforce it.
Prior to this case, prenuptial agreements signed by two spouses were generally considered valid even if both spouses were not represented by independent legal representation (i.e. their own lawyer).
What Effect Does This Case Have On Spouses Wishing To Create Prenuptial Agreements Prior To Getting Married In California?
If you live in California and want to enter into a prenuptial agreement, it is highly recommended that both parties be represented by legal counsel. If you sign such an agreement without a lawyer and you later feel the terms are unfair, you may be able to argue that not having a lawyer present makes the agreement invalid. Thus, retaining an experienced California family law attorney is essential if you need assistance in understanding the terms of a prenuptial agreement before signing it.