Millennials like prenuptial agreements almost as much as they like taking and posting selfies. “Prenups” are definitely “trending” among those under 35, according to a 2016 survey of family law attorneys conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). More than half of the lawyers said that millennials are more frequently requesting prenups, and only two percent said the number was declining.
Of those attorneys responding to the survey, 62 percent say they have seen rising numbers of clients seeking prenuptial agreements over the last three years. Family law attorney Arlene Dubin, a partner at Moses & Singer in New York, says the total number of prenuptial agreements has jumped 500 percent in the last two decades. Because millennials are marrying later in life than earlier generations, they typically have more property and assets to safeguard if a divorce happens.
John Slowiaczek, a Nebraska family law attorney and president of the AAML, said millennials have “been on their own, accumulated some wealth, either from a 401(k) or a stock program provided by their employer or some real estate, and they want to make sure that’s theirs if there are problems down the road.” Slowiaczek adds, “Millennials are predisposed to protect their interests.”
WHAT DO PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS COVER?
The AAML survey verifies that “predisposition” on the part of people under 35. Today, the three areas that most prenuptial agreements deal with are “protection of the increase of value in separate property,” inheritance rights, and the division of community property, according to the survey. Of course, many respective brides and grooms bring more than assets into a marriage. They also bring debt, especially student loan debt, which now totals well over a trillion dollars in the United States.
Prenuptial agreements can protect assets like retirement accounts, real estate, and investments, and prenups can also protect a bride or groom from a partner’s student loan or credit card debt. That was important for Rachel Ryan, 26, a freelance writer who is planning to marry next July. She told CNBC, “Because my fiance has a small business, it’s important for him to protect that. He also has quite a bit of student debt so I thought it could benefit both of us.”
Along with immediate financial concerns, personal life experiences may also make millennials “predisposed” to prenuptial agreements, according to attorney Slowiaczek. “Many millennials are children of divorce,” he said, so “they are predisposed to protect their interests.” A prenup gives couples the opportunity to work out issues that might emerge in a divorce in an atmosphere of peace and cooperation – and without the baggage and animosity that a divorce so often entails.
HOW DO MILLENNIALS DIFFER WITH TRADITIONAL VIEWS OF MARRIAGE?
Traditional views of marriage have little impact on the thinking of millennials. In a survey conducted by Avvo.com, only 42 percent of millennials believe that marriage is a “life goal.” Another difference millennials have with traditional views of marriage is reflected by their widespread practice of cohabitation. It’s a clear trend that’s easy to spot among those under 35. According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, only 11 percent of the women who first married between 1965 and 1974 cohabited before marrying. By 2009, 66 percent of women cohabited prior to marriage – a 600 percent increase in a single generation.
According to polls conducted by the Pew Research Center, the marriage rate among the millennial generation is reportedly at the lowest it has been in six decades, with the percent of millennials who’ve married at only 26 percent. At the same age as millennials are now (ages 18 to 29), 36 percent of “generation X-ers,” 48 percent of baby boomers, and 65 percent of “the greatest” generation were married.
What has persuaded young people to postpone marriage and in some cases avoid it entirely? Millennials have grown up in a culture with a 50 percent divorce rate. They know divorce is ugly, so they’re careful about choosing a life partner and not rushing into anything. Most millennials also feel that they are not yet financially stable enough for marriage. One could reasonably conclude that rather than rejecting marriage, the millennial generation actually takes it more seriously than most of their elders.
HOW DOES A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT WORK?
For those who take marriage seriously, signing a prenuptial agreement is simply a sensible step. A prenuptial agreement is a financial and legal contract that a couple drafts with the help of a family law attorney. It becomes effective at the moment of marriage. Before signing a prenup, both partners may seek legal advice from an attorney of their choice. In southern California, if you are considering marriage, let an experienced Orange County family law attorney help you and your spouse-to-be come up with a prenuptial agreement that protects both of you and your long-term interests.
Prenuptial agreements cover most – but not necessarily all – of the issues that frequently pop up in a divorce: life insurance benefits, property rights, spousal support, even custody of the family pets. However, the law in California prohibits prenuptial agreements from denying a minor child’s right to future financial support from both parents. Couples about to marry should also take advantage of premarital counseling. If you belong to a faith community, you may want their guidance. Counselors and counseling resources, both private and public, are plentiful in southern California, and counseling can offer practical insights for developing a strong, stable marriage.
After a wedding, a prenup (it’s legally called a “premarital agreement”) may be redrafted, amended, or even canceled entirely if both spouses agree in writing. A family lawyer can review current prenuptial agreements to ensure they are legal, just, and suitable for both partners. Partners who are already married may want to consider a postnuptial agreement, which accomplishes the same ends as a prenup.
In some marriages, when a divorce happens, one partner will challenge the prenuptial agreement. If a prenup gives one partner less than that partner would receive without the prenuptial agreement in place, the agreement can be challenged, and the court may set the agreement aside. An experienced Orange County family law attorney can help California couples draft a strong and enforceable prenuptial agreement that protects both partners if the marriage ends in divorce.