Millennials are getting married less frequently, but those who do are getting premarital agreements. According to a survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), 51% of the attorneys that participated cited an increase in the number of millennials requesting prenuptial agreements.
The attorneys surveyed most commonly included “protection of separate property” (78%), “alimony/spousal maintenance” (74%), and “division of property” (68%) in the agreements that they prepared for Millennial clients.
The data says Millennials are getting prenups for the same reasons that an older individual might pursue one. That is to protect their premarital assets, business stakes, and lay out their own agreements about alimony and spousal support in the event of a divorce.
We can identify several generational shifts that might explain why this is happening.
- Millennials are getting married later in life. That means they are more advanced in their careers. They are bringing more wealth and assets into a marriage. They’re also bringing a record amount of student loan debts.
- Many millennials who seek a prenup own a small business. They are concerned with brand building, and want to protect an asset they hold close to their identity.
- Millennials experienced divorce during childhood. They have already witnessed the financial impacts and pain of a divorce through their parents.
- Consider also women in the workforce: In 1980, only 13% of married or cohabitating women contributed at least half of total household earnings. Today it is 31%. Both men and women are earning money and putting away money in their own retirement plans and pensions.
Community property laws are scary
California is a community property state. Generally, property acquired during marriage is community property, subject to an equal division. Property acquired prior to marriage, or after the date of separation is presumptively separate property. But the laws are complex; assets and interests are not always easily identified, and the law is not always linear.
For example, say you buy a house before marriage and start paying down the mortgage, claiming it is your separate property. You get married, and you never put your spouse on the title or the loan. Thereafter, during marriage, you start to pay down the principal owed on the loan with community funds (i.e. your income during marriage.) If you start paying the principal owed with community money, that house now has a community interest—even if it's a separate property.
In essence, community property and spousal support laws get scary for anyone with assets and wealth, regardless of their age.
Make an informed decision about marriage
Simply put, Millennials are more careful about how they get married. This is not a bad thing. Divorce rates are down compared to other generations, likely a result of more mature and informed choices. If you’re committed to making a measured decision about what you’re getting into, consulting legal counsel is never a bad idea.
It’s important that both individuals work with separate attorneys to create a prenuptial agreement that in each spouse’s best interest. Expect your lawyer to guide you through the procedural requirements of what is and what is not enforceable. Have an honest conversation with your fiancée and be prepared to offer your attorney direction as you move through the process.
Don’t expect a talk about a prenuptial agreement to spark romance. Do think of it as coming to an agreement with somebody that you presumably love more than anyone you ever will. You're in a honeymoon phase. It's more likely that you will get a fair deal at this point than after someone initiates a divorce.
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