It seems that the average age for a first marriage has moved back by over 10 years over the last 50 years. In the 1950s, a male’s median age for his first marriage was just shy of 23, and women just over age 20. By 1980, the average age for men was almost 25, and women nearly 22. In 2010, this had pushed to 28 for men and 26 for women. And in 2020? For men, and for women, it’s 35.
Why are men and women waiting so much longer to get married? There are various reasons, but most notably, the desire for young people to focus on their educations and careers before setting down to start their families, seems to be a common theme. Today’s young adults seem far more interested in establishing a life for themselves before agreeing to share that life with a partner. Because of this, by the time men and women head down the aisle that first time, they will have worked for several years, and will often have assets and money in the bank.
Not only do these young adults have their financials in far better order than did their counterparts 60 years ago, they also disregard divorce rate trends. Though more than 90% of people marry by the age of 50, almost 50% of married couples find themselves experiencing a divorce. Because of this, these same couples aren’t heading down the aisle until they have one vital piece of paper in place. And that piece of paper? Well, the prenup, of course.
The Advantages of a Prenuptial Agreement
Aside from the high divorce rate, there are many reasons why young couples should consider a prenuptial agreement before marriage.
- Protecting the future of personal property brought into the marriage
- Avoiding court involvement for property distribution
- Clarifying what is marital property vs. community property
- Documenting any agreements that you make with your future spouse before the marriage
- Reducing potential attorney expenses should the need for a divorce arise
- Avoiding extended time spent in court
- Providing for a faster and more amicable split
- Assigning future liability for debts including credit cards, school loans, and mortgages to ensure that each spouse shares debt liability in a way that is equitable and fair for both parties
Things to Consider
Though a prenuptial agreement is an excellent decision for many young couples considering marriage these days, there can be some downsides. One of the most significant drawbacks is that many feel that creating such a legal document starts the marriage out with a taste of distrust. Many think that even discussing the concept of a prenuptial agreement can imply a lack of trust in their partner. Even more so, they feel that putting a prenup in place opens the door towards the possibility and the likelihood of divorce down the road.
- Some state laws already address items that are often covered in a prenup, thus making the time and expense of putting a prenup in place unnecessary
- In some cases, a prenup can feel like a trap to one of the partners
- Prenups do not account for child support issues as the court has the final say in the calculation of child support payments
- Circumstances can change, and it is impossible to predict what those changes might be at the onset of the relationship
How to Talk to Your Partner About a Prenuptial Agreement
Be open to the idea
Suppose you and your partner are considering marriage, in that case, it is critical to note that the discussion of a prenup is just one of several serious conversations that you will have throughout your marriage. So, this conversation is excellent practice. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go into it without caution—as a prenuptial agreement discussion can go south quickly if not handled correctly.
When handled correctly, this discussion can help you and your partner get comfortable by openly sharing the expectations that will shape your future partnership. It also helps to avoid unpleasant surprises and misunderstandings down the road. For this reason, it is best to start the conversation early, even before a marriage proposal has taken place. Your prenup conversation will also further allow you to assess your fit together as a couple.
Seek out an attorney
You and your partner should seek out an experienced attorney who can help you sort out the terms of a prenuptial agreement. The cost of obtaining an attorney to assist you with drafting your agreement will vary from state-to-state. You should select someone who has experience drafting prenuptial agreements for couples. Be sure that you and your partner are open to considering each other’s needs. If your agreement is all one-sided, it is more likely to create angst and discord later on. Own up to what you want and be sure you are listening to your partner’s needs and concerns.
Think through some of the things that may come up during your marriage. This is an excellent opportunity to do some dreaming and goal-setting. Then, think through how the attainment of (or failure to attain) those goals will apply to the terms of the prenup. For example, what happens if you or your partner start a new business that becomes wildly successful? And what if the opposite partner decides to stay home and raise the children? If you divorce, a well-thought-out prenup will ensure that the spouse who stayed home with the children is well provided for financially. After all, that spouse also sacrificed for the benefit of the business.
Considering your aspirations ahead of time and thinking how those hopes and dreams apply to the prenup will help manage expectations and take the pressure off should the document ever have to be exercised.
Prenups are Designed to Protect
When a couple goes into the prenuptial process early on, and with their eyes open, it can be a very positive experience. The more forthcoming the conversation, the less likely the prenup’s potential disadvantages will rear their ugly head. Prenups are useful whether you are wealthy or not, regardless of whether you have children and irrespective of your medical conditions.
Divorces are difficult. They are emotionally draining and can be financially devastating. But that prenup, that critical piece of paper that you drafted so long ago as a “just in case,” can come in and save the day, clarifying what goes where and making the process less painful. And if that day never comes and the prenup never needs to be exercised, it may be because you took the time to have that difficult decision early on, listened to each other, were open about your wants and needs, and took the time to document it.