Why Prenuptial Agreements Are Losing Their Stigma
Prenuptial agreements have historically been considered a “dirty word” among young couples entering the state of matrimony. For the past 50 years it was considered something only for the wealthy. The long standing stigma associated with prenuptial agreements often carried with it the notion that anyone who wanted to stipulate to division of property in the event of a divorce, before the marriage even begins, must not be that committed in the first place. Even those who might want to ask for a prenuptial agreement would be apprehensive for fear of their partner or partner’s family members questioning their love and commitment.
This sentiment was echoed by W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, as recently as 2013 when he wrote “If you’re thinking about a prenup, or — worse yet — your intended is pushing a prenup on you, you might as well go ahead and just cancel the wedding …There’s an easier way to keep your assets and income separate: it’s called cohabitation.”1
The Times They Are a-Changin’
I thought the “The Times They Are a-Changin'” was a perfect, and yet oddly ironic, subtitle considering the catalyst for changing perceptions around prenuptial agreements seems to be the millennial generation. For any millennials who may be reading this, The Times They Are a-Changin’ was a song written by Bob Dylan and released as the title track of his 1964 album of the same name. Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are the demographic born between the period of 1981 and 1996.
While millennials often get a bad rap by previous generations, many are finding their worldview a breath of fresh air as they redefine almost everything. Apparently, this includes the idea of prenuptial, otherwise known as premarital, agreements in New Jersey. They seem to be much more comfortable with the idea prenuptial agreements.
According to a recent study conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), 62% of divorce lawyers surveyed reported an increase in the number of clients requesting prenuptial agreements in the last few years. 51% of the attorneys, who reported an increase, cited an increased number of millennial’s requesting prenups. 2
Why The Increase In Prenuptial Agreements?
The main reason millennials seem to be driving the increase in prenuptial agreements appears to be related to the fact that they are delaying marriage. Since 2005, the median age for getting marriage has risen from 27 to 29.9 (men) and 25.5 to 28.1 (women) respectively.4
The fact remains that because they’re waiting longer to get married they are entering into marriage with more assets than prior generations. In addition, they are often carrying heavy student loan debt.
The hesitation to jump too quickly in the marriage, and the desire to protect their asset with prenuptial agreements also both could be driven by the fact that millennials are more familiar with the typical outcome of divorce considering that more than one third have come from single-parent or divorced households. 5
The Benefit Of Prenuptial Agreements
Unlike prior generations, millennials don’t associate prenups with guilt, lack of commitment, or pessimism. Maybe we could all learn something from this generation. In fact, it could be argued that the desire for a prenuptial agreement is a positive thing that encourages healthy discussion of financial matters before marriage.
Ironic isn’t it? While prenuptial agreements were once thought to make a marriage more susceptible to divorce, the opposite is often true. A prenuptial agreement can be vital to helping a couple to establish expectations going into marriage, and thereby set the stage for a more stable marriage relationship. In addition, premarital agreements can speed up the process in the event of a divorce by avoiding the time-consuming and expensive process of relying on the court to resolve issues that have already been addressed in the agreement.
3. The Times They Are a-Changin’ is a song written by Bob Dylan and released as the title track of his 1964 album of the same name.