A prenuptial agreement might be something that you only associate with celebrities and high society or something that you’ve seen on TV. It might come as a shock to you then to find that more and more millennials are opting for a prenup.
With young people starting to focus on their careers and savings as opposed to marrying young, it’s no wonder that they’re giving their financial futures more serious thought. Once a taboo subject, a prenup is becoming the way forward for many marrying couples, in a surprising development that shows no indication of slowing down.
*Disclosure: This is a partnered post.
Changes in marriage trends
One of the biggest trends in marriage relates to the marrying age. Census data published last year showed that in the 1970s, women were likely to have been married by the age of 24. This has been increasing steadily, with more than half of the population choosing to get married after they reach this age.
While 8 out of 10 people in the 70s were likely to be married by the age of 30, the same statistic is now reached at the age of 45. These figures not only reflect the changes in attitudes that have taken place but circumstances too.
Working girls swapping marriage for careers
There are many factors that have led to the rise in the average marital age for women. Far more women are going to university than they were in the 1970s, with a focus on education and a future career ranking higher on their list of priorities. After college comes a career, with the number of homemakers declining versus the number of women out in the working world.
The idea of putting a career before love is becoming more common among women, out of fear they’ll miss out on development opportunities and career progression over their male colleagues. The feeling exists that women who are married or have a family are less committed to their jobs, coming under pressure for leaving the office at a reasonable time instead of putting in the extra hours.
There’s also the fear of being left out of social events due to home and family commitments taking precedence over the after-work culture, making them think about considering marriage at a later point in their lives.
Another factor that has influenced the decision to marry later and make a prenuptial agreement is the divorce rate. Children of divorce may find themselves scared of entering into a marriage out of fear of history repeating itself, particularly if the divorce was a messy one.
Meanwhile, more and more people are choosing to cohabit rather than get married, or live together as a ‘trial’ for marriage, which is believed to have contributed to a decreasing divorce rate.
More and more people will have lived with a partner before marriage, a trend which has grown significantly since the 60s and 70s, where people were far less likely to have cohabited before marriage.
Putting financial security before marriage
Another reason for choosing to marry later lies with financial security. Younger people want to be in a good place financially before they tie the knot, making individuals more likely to be financially independent before marriage.
By the time they enter a marriage, each partner is likely to have a career and perhaps their own financial assets, which they will want to protect in case of divorce. Having a prenup can provide that security over assets that are already accumulated, as well as potential future assets.
There is also the factor of debt to consider. The cost of going to college is rising, and more young people are taking on huge student loans in order to attend. A prenup can resolve the issue of what happens to the debt after a divorce and therefore leave couples in a more secure financial decision after the marriage has ended.
While this may seem like they’re planning for the worst, this could simply be a way to protect their future, having been influenced by the high divorce rates among previous generations.
Prenups see a 51% rise among millennials
In 2016, a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that divorce lawyers were seeing a 51% increase in the number of millennials requesting a prenuptial agreement. The three main reasons for this were “protection of separate property” (78%), “alimony/spousal maintenance” (74%) and “division of property” (68%).
In a press release, the president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Joslin Davies, said: “Couples are getting married at later ages these days and are consequently entering their relationships with more to protect in the event of a divorce. A prenuptial agreement often represents the most effective way to address these concerns and safeguard individual assets before exchanging vows.”
Prenups are no longer seen as taboo by millennial couples, and the nature of the prenups themselves has also changed. In previous generations, prenups were requested to protect family estates which could go back generations, as opposed to today where both parties are likely to have their own assets and income.
While marriage is still viewed as a way of solidifying a commitment to one another, millennials aren’t going into marriage blindly and are more realistic in their expectations – knowing that divorce is always a possibility.
A break from the traditional prenup
While emerging trends show a rise in prenuptial agreements, they are also showing that there are different kinds of prenups being signed by couples today. New York lawyers have discussed the details of some of their most bizarre prenups, which include clauses that include ‘wife not allowed to cut her hair,’ and clauses about cheating, with heavy penalties if that were to be the reason for divorce.
Many suspect that Tom Cruise’s marriage to Katie Holmes included some very specific clauses related to dating someone else for a period of time after their divorce. While Katie Holmes is said to have been dating actor Jamie Foxx since 2013, the first photos of them confirming their relationship in public have only emerged this week.
Being termed ‘lifestyle clauses,’ these sorts of conditions range from the bizarre to controlling and can include conditions that apply during the marriage, as opposed to following a divorce.
The rise of postnuptial agreements
In addition to a rise in prenuptial agreements, there has also been an increase in the number of postnuptial agreements being drawn up. In the UK, postnuptial agreements have seen an increase with infidelity being one of the main catalysts.
With couples wanting to work on their marriage rather than heading straight to divorce a postnuptial agreement could be another reason why the divorce rate is on the decline. People are getting savvier about their rights and their own circumstances, and want to safeguard their futures where possible.
A postnuptial agreement can also be beneficial for couples if their circumstances change after marriage. If they decide to invest in property or a business venture together, a couple may turn to a postnuptial agreement of sorts to protect their interests in the business and ensure they don’t lose out if the marriage were to end.
There are also your children to consider in the event of a divorce. Could your postnup outline your options for custody arrangements to protect them from the unpleasantness of divorce? This could be something to think about at a later stage of your marriage.
Is a prenup right for you?
The increase in prenuptial agreements might have given you some food for thought about your own financial circumstances. Even if you can’t conceive the idea of a divorce before you’ve even headed down the aisle, it could make financial sense to consider your options and your future if the marriage fails.
With more couples likely to be financially independent before they marry, a prenup might not seem like much of a big deal. You could find a lawyer here to draw up your agreement and think no more about it. Often it’s the partner’s family that feels more comfortable with the marriage if a prenup in place, and if the other person has their own income and assets – should it even matter?
What would happen if your circumstances were to change? A prenup could mean that you end up with nothing, while your more financially-secure partner walks away.
A prenup may seem like a sour way to start a marriage, but it does open up some vital discussions about finances that some couples may avoid all the way to the altar. It can help you establish some common goals and expectations and make sure that each half of the couple knows where they stand in the event of a divorce.
While the conversations can reveal some truths that may not have been known by one-half of the couple, it could also establish that no prenup is needed at all. It’s better to have the conversation and be aware of all the options than to go in blindly without thinking about it at all. Nobody wants to consider divorce as a possibility, but as it is much more common and easier to get a divorce today – it’s something that could (and does) happen to a large number of couples.
With the increase in prenups looking set to continue, it will be interesting to see what other trends emerge as attitudes to marriage and relationship break away from those of previous generations.