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In re The Marriage of Bonds

California Supreme Court
5 P.3d 815 (2000)


Facts

In 1987, Barry Bonds (petitioner) met a Swedish woman named Susann (Sun) (respondent). Barry and Sun began a romantic relationship that led to their marriage the following year, when they were both 23 years old. Barry, a professional baseball player, was earning about $100,000 annually. Sun had worked as a waitress and bartender and had taken some cosmetology classes, but she was unemployed when she and Barry married. Sun’s native language was Swedish. However, she had also used English in her jobs, classes, and friendships. Sun and Barry had a quick Las Vegas wedding. The day before their wedding, Barry and Sun entered a prenuptial agreement that provided that the couple would not have any community property. This means, if they divorced, Barry and Sun would each keep everything he or she individually acquired during the marriage. In 1994, Sun and Barry divorced. Sun asked the court to invalidate the premarital agreement due to a lack of voluntariness. At trial, Barry testified that he had told Sun from the outset that he believed his earnings should remain his in the event of divorce. Barry further testified that Sun agreed, saying that that was the rule in Sweden. According to Sun, however, she only learned about the prenuptial agreement the day before the document was signed. Sun also testified that she had poor English skills at the time and did not understand the agreement. Barry’s lawyers testified that, at the signing, they told Sun that they represented Barry alone and advised her to get her own lawyer. When Sun declined, the lawyers walked her through the contract paragraph-by-paragraph, explaining all the terms. The trial court concluded that Sun had entered the prenuptial agreement voluntarily and upheld it. The appellate court, however, reversed, emphasizing Sun’s lack of independent counsel. Barry appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (George, C.J.)

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