31st Dec 2019
The median age of marriage for men and women has gone up rapidly since the 1970s. In 1970, the median age for men was 23 and for women it was 21; by 2017, it had jumped to 29.5 and 27.4, respectively. What this trend means for civilization is up for debate. Perhaps it’s a sign of women who value careers or apprehension in general about getting divorced—it could be many things.
Without a doubt, though, it will mean that when people do get married, they will often have greater divergences in earning power, debt, and assets. More of life will have happened already. And it may be time to soften attitudes toward prenuptial agreements. In short, they are not just for rich, old men.
For Gen Xers, prenuptial agreements signaled suspicion, presumptuousness, and greed. For this generation, perhaps it will be more about independence, transparency, protection, and practical fairness. Let’s look at the general cases in which you will definitely want to investigate a prenup and then those where you will likely not.
A quick primer: A prenuptial marriage arrangement is a unique formal contract that details to a greater or lesser degree how a married couple will handle their financial future—especially when it comes to divorce. Prenups can last a specified amount of time or indefinitely. The prenup cannot dictate child custody or general behaviors within marriage.
But when would you definitely want to investigate getting a prenup?
1. You already have children
This is becoming more common, and there is nothing selfish about protecting your child’s financial inheritance (or protecting them from burden) in the case of divorce or death.
2. Your partner is still in school or will require more school in the future
It is noble to bear the burden of a partner while the relationship is healthy, but what about when that debt follows you out of the relationship? A prenup can help you manage this burden during the marriage and in the case of its dissolution.
3. Your respective sets of parents have differing upcoming needs and abilities to support themselves
How will you take care of your in-laws in the future? Perhaps your parents are well-prepared for the future with long-term care policies and investments. Your partner may have much older parents who will need financial support. A prenup can help you reach an understanding of how this will be managed before it becomes an emotional eruption.
4. You own a business
Whether or not you think your spouse would come for your business, it is responsible to your partners, employees, partners and clients to protect it.
5. You stand to inherit significant assets from your family
On the surface, protecting family assets from potential divorce or mismanagement may seem greedy, but many reasons exist to handle this issue in a prenup. Among others, your ability to guarantee that you and your heirs will keep family assets may affect whether or not your family gives them to you in the first place!
6. Age disparity
Age-related issues such as retirement accounts, health issues, asset liquidation, etc. affect relationships with large age disparities. Could a wealthy spouse owe less alimony because of health conditions? Should you be compensated for the work of caring for an ailing spouse prior to divorce? What about medical debt incurred while married?
Prenups will never be enjoyable. They will be comforting at best. If you don’t need one, consider yourself lucky (or rather waiting to receive your luck together). If you have the following scenario you may not need to investigate a prenup:
- No student loan debt
- No children
- No real assets or real estate
- No businesses
- Similar familial wealth
- Similar earning power
- Similar age
Usually, this means you are rather young and recently out of school.
For the rest of us, you should start the process of obtaining separate attorneys (practical but also more legally valid) and preparing your documents. In the end, you should really see eye to eye on the logic of the agreement. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Having an honest conversation with your spouse and subsequently your attorney will be a great relief in the future. And if you mutually change your mind, you can add, dissolve, or amend a prenup with the help of an attorney any time. For legal advice regarding prenuptial agreements or other divorce inquiries, contact the knowledgeable legal team at Semmes Law.