Facebook and Marriage

While I should probably view it as a cliche, I find it ironic that I first learned of Mark Zuckerberg's wedding via facebook, more specifically through an article posted from a local news agency. I found it ironic not only because it was through the social networking site that Mr. Z created, but also because I live in the Bay Area, home to the facebook mecca. In fact, the expansion of facebook and negotiations with the Menlo Park city council have been a regular item of discussion on the local news media television reports.

I then came across this article, which details the potential reasons why the timing of Zuckerberg's marriage, post-IPO, may have been a smart legal move. The article discusses the obvious benefits of having a prenuptial agreement in place for people of such financial achievement, and further states the benefits of entering into a marriage in terms of avoiding a messy fallout post-divorce.

The truth is, however, that in California, an agreement to share resources survives a marriage. In other words, just because a couple enters into marriage, does not mean that a spouse is no longer (potentially) entitled to claim their title to one half of the community property (referred to as quasi-community property) that was earned prior to entering into the marriage.

When a couple cohabitates, lives together as a married couple agreeing to pool resources, etc., they may be entitled to bring a Marvin action, whereby the court treats the property as quasi-community property. Put differently, the property that would be considered community property if there was a validly recognized marriage, can be considered like community property, if there is sufficient evidence of an agreement to live (financially) like a married couple. This is an entirely separate claim from the potential division of assets that takes place during a divorce, and is in fact brought under a civil claim rather than in family court. Therefore, marriage may not be the answer to ensuring protection of Zuckerberg's Facebook assets from his girlfriend since 2004.

Additionally, claims regarding things such as spousal support, even when explicitly discussed in prenuptial agreements, are looked at in terms of reasonableness at the time the end of the marriage occurs, rather than the entering into of the agreement. Therefore, if there even was a prenuptial agreement, it must withstand certain legal requirements at the time it would be exercised, in order to be upheld.

On a final note, however, I wonder whether I am alone in finding it disturbing that news outlets  start discussing a future divorce within days of a couple entering into marriage. I'd like to hope that all the discussions of pre-nuptial agreements and dissolution of marriage are unnecessary, and I wish the newly married couple the best. It is certainly an exciting time for them to be entering into a marriage!

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