“Prenup… yeah. It’s something that you need to have ‘Cause when she leave yo’ ass she gone leave with half.”
Now Kanye West and I may not agree about much these days, but his wise call to his fan-base was true. Prenuptial agreements and documents that help a couple plan for separation in advance are super important; especially for the rising number of adults between the ages of 20 and 40.
Now, more than ever, young professionals are cohabitating in lieu of traditional marriage. Recent trends in relationships show that couples are getting married later, or not at all. In the U.S. alone, the rate of marriage has declined dramatically among young adults — down to just 20%, from 59% in 1960. For couples who do decide to marry, the median age of marriage has now increased by six years in the past 50 years.
Dating and relationships look very different in today’s world than ever before. From apps such as Bumble to the ever-expanding spectrum of sexuality, millennials have more freedom than ever before to stray from norms and create their own definitions of partnership. Millenials are far more likely to value career success, and higher education, but also are far likelier to incur increased debts leading to the generation feeling less financially secure.
Start planning now
This huge group of millennials (adults born after 1978) has diverse wishes, values, and more than ever favor outsourcing, convenience, and transparency. In this regard, creating a lasting separation agreement makes sense. Why wouldn’t a couple want to create a plan for amicable separation when they actually like each other rather than waiting for conflict to erupt? It would seem to reason that both parties would end up with less favorable outcomes if they are in a hostile place.
It may seem counterintuitive, but planning for your break up when things are going incredible leads to healthier and longer-lasting relationships. Relationship therapists unanimously agree that discussing finances, debt, and money management strategies increase relationship satisfaction. Talking often and openly may actually increase the likelihood that a couple will succeed. Talking about things that are difficult, or uncomfortable, may help a couple band together and battle life’s future stressors.
Life is messy
Not only is it [planning for separation] healthy, but simply a matter of convenience. All couples hope that they will be together for the long haul, and many will. However, when considering the odds (approximately half of all couples split) it would be a simple and helpful exercise to discuss separating when you’re in love, rather than at each other’s throats.
You are more likely to compromise now.
Couples are more likely to make concessions and compromise when they are calm, and genuinely caring about the other person’s wellbeing.
Unfortunately, in separation, these feelings are not usually at the forefront of anyone’s mind. People are often focused on hurt feelings, anger, and getting out as quickly as possible. This risks both parties ending up with an unequal division of assets, property, or creating an unfair power imbalance in the couple.
Forget the stigma. It’s about making a decision for your future.
Prenuptial agreements, (or prenups if you’re hip) tend to get a bad rap. They are often associated with the image of an aging white man and his much younger wife. Often, couples opt out of this practice because they find it “depressing,” or because “they’ll last forever.” But making a rational decision for your future and your finances is an important way for young women to take control in an age-old, patriarchal system that has historically let them down.
Separation agreements, domestic contracts, or yes, the dreaded prenups actually make fiscal and emotional sense. These documents offer an insurance policy of sorts, in case of a legal separation. What’s the insurance for? That a judge may take your wishes into account when deciding how to allocate your hard-earned assets “fairly.” These agreements allow you and your partner to think creatively and devise solutions for the things that are important to you, rather than applying a standard formula to your life together.
In many North American jurisdictions, couples that live together do not have many protections under the law, nor is there a formula to separate assets, property, or possessions. But today’s millennial is often a professional of sorts; maybe they come to the relationship with a retirement plan, savings, property, and independent items. Contrarily, in today’s economy, you might also come into the relationship with debt, outstanding student loans, and overdue mortgages. Through the process of living together, finances get intertwined; couples share budgets and make joint investment decisions. This only further complicates the ability to separate equally; not even when thinking about who gets the dog, the desktop Mac, and the dining room table.
In comes the co-habitation agreement, the little sibling to the dreaded prenup. It’s the fresh alternative to planning for potential separation when the law does not protect either party. Contrary to dramatic reductions in marriage, couples are choosing to live together (either as a precursor to marriage or as a partnership). Today, the number of millennials cohabitating has almost doubled since 1999. This is even more important, because research has suggested that educated couples who cohabitate, but are not married, have the highest median incomes.
Without the protections of marriage, cohabitating couples are not offered the same protection under the law for the division of their assets. Women having greater economic independence and the rising rates of divorce have led to many millennials viewing marriage as a risky decision.
What to Do Now
So what’s a millennial in love to do? Consider all options! If you think that you and your partner may be good candidates for a prenup or co-habitation agreement, research family lawyers or family mediators in your area. Each party should consult with their own independent counsel, to ensure that the agreement is equitable for each and that it will hold up in court should the couple eventually separate.
If you don’t want this set in stone… you can also work with a mediator to help you begin planning and thinking of what questions to ask yourselves. You can use this guideline as a tool to plan for your futures or to discuss your assets openly.
What’s a cohabitation agreement again? Cohabitation agreements are a signed contract between two non-married people who currently live together. This contract offers the opportunity to discuss issues about property, assets, shared expenses, debt, and spousal support obligations (but not rights to custody or access to any shared children). By taking this decision into your own hands, you save yourself the potentially nasty legal dispute if a relationship fails.
Since cohabitating has become the new way to test drive a relationship, it is important to ensure that we are using all the resources available to us to ensure we are protected in the future, should the test drive crash and burn.
Now, my fellow millennials repeat after me: “If you ain’t no punk holla we want prenup, we want prenup!”