Manual and Donna Diosdado married in 1988. They separated five years later
when Donna accused Manual of having an affair. They reconciled, and part
of their reconciliation was to enter into an agreement where each would
remain in an exclusive relationship based on mutual trust and sexual and
emotional fidelity. Examples of violations of the agreement included kissing
someone else on the mouth or touching someone else in a sexual manner.
If the agreement were violated, penalties would be assessed. If the non-violating
party filed for divorce, the violator would have to move out of the family
home immediately, pay the attorney's fees of the non-violator, and
pay the non-violator $50,000 above and beyond any property settlement
and/or spousal support order.
Alas, their happiness did not last long. Within two years, Donna suspected
Manual of cheating on her again, and she had a friend who corroborated
her story. Donna filed for divorce and requested the Judgment be based
on the agreement.
The trial court ignored the agreement and granted a Judgment based on the
pleadings; in other words, whatever the parties were entitled to by law
without their agreement.
Donna appealed. She argued that under the Bonds vs. Bonds case, parties
in a marriage (or getting married) were allowed to make agreements in
the event of divorce. (Bonds vs. Bonds is a very famous California case
regarding a pre-nuptial agreement between then-Major League Baseball player
Gary Bonds and his then-fiancée.)
The Appellate Court disagreed with Donna. Although there are certain aspects
where parties can make separate agreements, they were not absolute. However,
in this case, the Diosdado agreement was trying to regulate a party's
fault. In 1969, California specifically excluded fault as a cause of action
for a divorce; thus the term "no-fault divorce." To allow agreements
to the contrary would be against public policy.
As a side note, Manual's attorney said that Manual never cheated on
Donna. According to him, Donna just wanted the extra $50,000.
Marital agreements are very technical and should always be created with
the help of a qualified family law specialist to ensure their enforceability.