When a couple decides to get married, they are promising to love, honor, and cherish one another “until death do them part,” according to the vows of the institution.
However, life happens, and it does not always work out as intended. Even though divorce is rarely something in mind for people about to say “I do,” it is something that can occur, and given divorce statistics in the United States being at 16.9 divorces per 1,000 married women in 2015, according to studies from Bowling Green State University.
While this rate is down from previous years, it still makes individuals, who are looking to protect themselves in the event of a divorce, look into the possibility of a prenuptial agreement before they tie the knot.
Although they may seem like a modern concept or a recent trend, forms of the prenuptial agreement have existed for centuries. Jewish history notes the ketubah (marriage contract) as being first introduced during the time of Babylonian captivity (597-537 BC), according to the University of Central Florida. In the Jewish culture, the ketubah is legal and unilateral agreement written in Aramaic and drawn up by witnesses in accordance with Jewish civil law, according to Chabad Lubavitch, a Jewish historical, educational, and cultural organization. This agreement testifies that the husband guarantees he will provide his wife with the necessary conditions of life, such as clothing and shelter, as well as a specified sum in the case of divorce and an inheritance if he should die before her.
Other cultures use the concept of a dowry as a form of a prenuptial agreement. In early Irish culture, what one entered into the marriage was what one left it, which meant that women left considerably worse, due to the fact that she did not provide land nor stock, according to the Corpus of Electronic Texts, a database of Irish literary and historical culture. Her share of the assets included half of her own handiwork and one-sixth of the dairy produced in store.
In ancient Rome, the father was required to provide a dowry for their daughters heading into the marriage. However, marriages and divorces were not formally registered by any governing body, according to the University of Michigan. Because of this, marriages can begin and end without any formality or interference from third parties, and since each spouse retained control of whatever property each had prior to the marriage, the dowry would return with the daughter.
While the idea of no formal registration or process to divorce seems refreshing and simple, if it were applied to modern marriage, the financial and emotional damage to both parties in a given divorce would be devastating. Custody would not function as a concept, and many who rely on child support would not be able to support themselves and their children.
This level of financial mindfulness is what motivates many to seek out a prenuptial agreement before getting married. They see it as a way of investing in their own futures and protecting themselves from any possible marital turmoil.
Many view it as dooming a marriage to fail, but with people waiting later and later in life to get married, a prenuptial agreement becomes a smart investment that allows for people to protect themselves with the same amount of effort that they are putting into their desire to get married.
There may be a percentage of people from older generations who wished that they had gotten a prenuptial agreement, due to how popular it has become in younger generations of married couples, according to the Chicago Tribune. With more than half of people in their 20s and 30s saying it is important for them to be financially secure before they get married, according to a 2015 survey by Allstate and the National Journal, more businesses and financial stability are established before someone says “I do.”
The years before marriage also allow for asset accrual, and many couples are using prenuptial agreements as a way for each individual to protect any assets they may accumulate, as well as future income.
The ability to financially plan one’s future is prioritized more heavily, and when you are in a relationship in your 20s and 30s, you are able to focus more on creating the life for yourself that you desire, while dealing with the debts of education that may have been accrued. However, with the utilization of prenuptial agreements, couples are able to say upfront how they would like to separate their debt in the event of a divorce.
The trend of millennials utilizing the prenuptial agreement to protect themselves and their financial futures was seen in the 2016 American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers survey which found that 51 percent of attorneys cited an increase in the number of millennials requesting prenuptial agreements and 62 percent seeing an increase in the total number of clients seeking prenuptial agreements during the past three years.
According to the survey, 78 percent of the focus of the prenuptial agreements being sought after was focused on protection of separate property, while 74 percent of the focus was on alimony and spousal maintenance. Division of property also was seen as a focus at 68 percent total.
With younger generations entering marriage with more financial experience under their belt, they are beginning to view prenuptial agreements, not as a way to plan for failure, but to insure their financial futures.