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“Prenup” is no longer a dirty word

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP June 5, 2019

What makes for the perfect proposal? For starters, it’s the person you’re with. Love, kindness and trust, as well as shared goals, values and interests. A romantic setting is probably high up there, too. Maybe a trip to the ocean or a mountain hike. A ring is likely. But a prenup?

Prenuptial agreements may not yet have any place in the modern proposal, but they’re an increasing part of engagements, especially among millennials. It’s true they’re not romantic, but neither is marriage. You can have romance in your relationship, but marriage comes with all kinds of legal consequences. In many ways, marriage is a contract. And once you recognize that, you might understand why surveys have shown a surge in prenuptial agreements, driven mostly by millennials.

Why are millennials taking a new look at prenuptial agreements?

Millennials are approaching the whole institution of marriage differently than previous generations, and their acceptance of prenups appears to fit within the larger narrative.

  • Millennials are marrying later. The median age for men to marry rose by 2.9 years since 2005, and the median age for newly married women rose by 2.6 years. This means that couples have more time to gain wealth—and debt—before they consider marriage. The more assets they accrue, the more sense it makes to address them in a prenuptial agreement.
  • One-third of millennials are children of divorce. Many of them saw their parents argue and lived through the aftermath of their divorces. The prospect of divorce may simply be too real for them to ignore. Even if divorce is not on their radar, they may recognize the value of a tool designed to limit the litigation associated with a highly contested divorce.
  • Millennials may view prenups differently than earlier generations. Most people from earlier generations viewed prenups as tools to shield a wealthy partner’s assets from their spouse. Millennials have started to view prenups as tools they use as a team to protect their dreams, including new businesses and the marriage itself. Some couples may believe that when they use prenups to address the financial issues in advance, they may defuse some of their future financial arguments and focus more on their shared goals.

Prenuptial agreements are limited and have specific requirements and restrictions, and it’s important to understand your prenup, both before and during the marriage. An experienced family law attorney can guide you through the process.

Is there room for romance in the prenup?

If millennials have managed to destigmatize the prenuptial agreement, is it possible they can add some romance to it, too? As crazy as it may sound, it may be possible. One piece in The New York Times told the story of a couple who brought a bottle of Champagne to their prenup meeting. Once both partners signed the prenup, they uncorked the bottle and celebrated.