Remember the opening scene in Wedding Crashers? You know, the one where a couple in the midst of an ugly divorce hurl vicious insults at one another? Fortunately for them, fast-talking mediators Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson swoop in and save the day. But, if they had a valid prenuptial agreement prior to getting married — chances are they could’ve avoided battling it out altogether.
Simply put, a premarital agreement is a contract signed by both spouses before marriage that stipulates their property and financial rights in the event of a divorce. On the romance scale, having the prenup talk with your significant other falls somewhere in between meeting the parents and having to hold back your partner’s hair after one too many tequila shots. Nevertheless, prenups are on the rise across the board, including amongst millennials. In a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, more than half of the 1,600 attorneys polled said they’d seen an increase in the number of 18 to 35-year-olds seeking prenups over the last three years.
Prenups are on the rise across the board, including amongst millennials.
Kelly Cohen-Leider practices family mediation and collaborative law in Los Angeles, and says one of the reasons prenups have become more widespread is because millennials have witnessed their parents go through terrible divorces and want to avoid a similar situation. Although prenups have earned a bad reputation, her view is they help strengthen relationships by encouraging couples to openly discuss their finances and clarify their intentions prior to saying “I do”.
Miami-based divorce attorney, Anya Cintron-Stern, agrees with Cohen-Leider, saying “we are a generation of divorced kids.” This also explains why a lot of people are choosing cohabitation in lieu of marriage, and why Cintron-Stern has been preparing more cohabitation agreements. They’re similar to prenups, save for a few limitations, she explains.
There have been instances when Cintron-Stern has witnessed the spouse with fewer assets end up on the losing side of a premarital agreement, however, she still maintains a prenup is the right decision in most cases. A divorce can cost around $5,000, and that’s without litigation, she says. “Prenups take a lot of the anxiety out of [marriage] because you never know if you’re going to be with the person till death do us part even though you say you are.”
According to Florida attorney, Richard S. Chizever P.A., premarital contracts are in greater demand because Americans are getting married later in life. In 1990, the average age for marriage in the US was 23 for women and 26 for men, compared to 27 and 29 now, respectively. Delaying marriage means the parties are more likely to enter the union with individual assets they want to protect, which is where a prenuptial agreement comes in, says Chizever.
While traditionally men have been the main financial providers in a family, Cintron-Stern handles many prenups where women are the breadwinners. And although she can’t say for certain female breadwinners contribute to an increase in prenups overall, it’s worth noting how differently men and women approach the topic. She says women are more hesitant to broach the subject because they don’t want to ruffle any feathers. Conversely, men will bring up a prenup as if it were any other business transaction. In her experience, women prefer to have a lawyer be the one to mention a premarital agreement so as to avoid conflict. Meanwhile, men tend to be last-minute about the process, with some proposing a prenup just one week before the wedding.
All three attorneys agree prenups have become increasingly detailed.
All three attorneys agree prenups have become increasingly detailed. Cintron-Stern recalls a client who was marrying into a wealthy family and had to consent to random drug testing in the prenup. If the results came back positive, she would be entitled to nothing. The client had two choices: sign the contract or not get married. She chose the former. Certain prenuptial contracts, especially in the case of millennials, now also deal with social media content and who can or can’t post what, usually in regards to the children, says Cintron-Stern.
The notion that prenups are no longer reserved for the one percent is something the lawyers all mentioned. Indeed, a recent article in Bloomberg reveals millennials are more worried about their financial futures than the previous generation, and thus care equally about protecting tangible assets as they do intangible ones. This means films, songs, screenplays, software, apps, and even ideas currently only in their heads can be cited in a prenup.
What a lot of people don’t realize, explains Cohen-Leider, is that every legally married couple has a prenup. “It’s just about deciding whether you want the [state] law to be your prenup, or whether you want to decide the terms yourself.”