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Key Decisions in California Family Law Cases

August 24, 2011

Part 2 in on ongoing series: Managing New Challenges in California Family Law Disputes

Fortunately, a recent California court decision has provided a definitive answer regarding premarital agreements. A key question in the past has been: If a party has seven days from the time that they are presented with a premarital agreement to actually sign it, when did that seven-day period start if they were not initially represented by counsel? For instance, did it start on the day when they were first presented with a draft of the agreement, or did the seven-day cooling off period start on the day when the agreement was presented in its final form? In January 2011, the California Supreme Court ruled that when a premarital agreement is first presented to an unrepresented party, they have seven days to either see a lawyer or sign it, at which point it becomes effective.

Another key decision in this area is In re Marriage of Reifler, 39 Ca1.3d 479 (1974), a case that many bench officers have long used relative to not allowing oral testimony in support or custody hearings if declarations submitted by the parties have already been read. For example, if you brought a witness to testify on your behalf, the court might say, ”We do not have time to hear that argument, because you have already submitted a declaration.” Even though Reifler has not been overturned, the California courts have decided that declarations will be utilized less frequently as a means of getting information to a bench officer, whereas oral testimony will be increasingly required, due to more stringent application of the Rules of Evidence and increased opportunity for family law litigants to request live testimony.

-Joseph P. Spirito Jr.

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