A prenuptial agreement is a contract that the members of a couple sign before getting married. The contract outlines what would likely happen in the event of a divorce, in addition to any other enforceable expectations allowed by state law. The engaged parties can set aside specific property as separate assets that they won’t share if they divorce. They (generally) can also outline exactly how they will share their marital income and assets.
The terms included in a prenuptial agreement often lead to a smoother and less contentious divorce process, as the pre-existing contract between spouses can resolve everything from disagreements about property division to support matters. Prenuptial agreements were once only used by the incredibly rich, powerful or famous. However, they have become increasingly popular among working-class and middle-class couples. What has led to an increase in the popularity of prenuptial agreements?
The cultural acceptance of divorce
A few decades ago, divorce was much rarer than it is currently. Due in part to restrictive laws and social stigma, people would stay in marriages where they endured abuse or infidelity simply because they felt that divorce was not an option. Given that divorce was so uncommon, negotiating with a fiancé to set terms for the possibility of future marital dissolution may have seemed crass. With divorce having become more common, there’s less stigma attached to both divorce and prenuptial agreements. Considering the possibility of a future divorce may seem more practical when people acknowledge that a significant percentage of marriages will likely end in divorce.
The increase in two-income households
People are more likely to have two incomes and numerous shared assets to address in their divorce than they may have in prior generations. Both spouses may therefore have an interest in protecting assets including their retirement savings or separate property owned before they got married. Prenuptial agreements seem very practical to members of Generation Z Millennials in particular, as many of them may have witnessed their parents or other role models divorcing at some point. Younger people have begun to adopt prenuptial agreements as a means of protecting themselves from the financial and emotional devastation of litigated divorces.
Many couples find that discussing expectations for the marriage and for a possible future divorce can help them start their marriage with shared goals. As a result, drafting a prenuptial agreement may improve someone’s chances of marital success. And it can also protect them from certain worst-case scenarios if they do divorce in the future.