For many years, there has been a stigma attached to prenuptial agreements. As recently as 2013, a marriage expert expressed an opinion in the New York Times that a couple considering a prenup might as well skip the wedding in favor of cohabitation.
Nevertheless, a dramatic shift in attitude has occurred since the middle of this decade. From 2013 to 2016, a survey of family law attorneys indicated a 62% increase in prenuptial agreements, particularly among millennials.
The traditional view of a prenup is that it is for people who are either extremely wealthy or have been married before. So why are so many millennials of modest means entering into prenups before their first marriages? There are a number of significant factors driving this trend.
Children of divorce
Approximately one-third of the millennials contemplating marriage are children of divorce themselves. They have witnessed firsthand the difficulties that divorce can cause, and they want to take every possible step to ensure success for their own marriage. They may also receive counsel from their own parents to avoid the mistakes of older generations and protect their own interests when entering into a marriage.
Shifting role of women
Millennial women are more likely than their mothers and grandmothers were to earn higher wages, attain college degrees and purchase their own homes prior to marriage. With female millennials evolving into more independent roles than ever before, they may be uniquely motivated to protect their own financial interests in the event of a divorce.
Millennials are waiting longer to embark on marriage than previous generations did. As of 2017, the median marriage ages for men and women were 29.9 and 28.1, respectively. This represents an increase from 2005 when the median age was 27 for men and 25.5 for women. The average age of a premarital relationship has also increased to 4.9 years. When millennials wait longer to get married, they have more time to accumulate assets and, perhaps more threatening to the health of the relationship, debt.
For these reasons, prenuptial agreements make practical sense to millennials when they choose to marry.