Happily ever after begins with prenup for more millennials

Getting a prenuptial agreement, cohabitation agreement or marriage contract is a common and logical step for many people entering into committed partnerships. It is becoming increasingly the norm for millennials for a variety of reasons, in particular partnering later in life, when significant assets (or debts) have already been accrued.

By Staff

It’s no surprise that a generation that has grown up seeing relationships dissolve around them now want to enter into marriage contracts before saying ‘I do,’ St. Catharines family lawyer Sharon Silbert tells

Silbert, principal of Sharon B. Silbert Professional Corporation, points to a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers showing that more than half the lawyers surveyed saw an increase in the number of millennials seeking prenuptial agreements.

Millennials’ exposure to divorce and separation and their understanding of the realities of the breakdown of a relationship may be a key reason they opt for prenups, she says.

“When people get married, breakdown is never the intention. The best-case scenario is the marriage contract is prepared, goes into a filing cabinet somewhere and is never looked at again,” Silbert says. “But I think more people are seeing it as an insurance policy. If things were to go sideways, at least they know they’re protected.”

There’s a stereotype that people who decide to have a prenuptial contract are those getting married for a second time, already have children, and are looking to protect their estate, she says.

“Certainly, that demographic comprises some of the clients I see, but I also have plenty who are entering their first marriage from the younger end of the spectrum and want a marriage contract,” Silbert says.

She also suggests another contributing factor is that many Gen Ys are waiting longer to marry than people once did, and they’ve had time to accumulate some assets.

“It used to be people were getting married when they were just getting started in the workforce. They may not have had much of an opportunity to build up wealth on their own. So there was less of a perception that there was anything to protect,” Silbert says.

“Today, it’s more common to see people getting married in their 30s after they’re already established in their careers, she says. “They’ve started to build up their own net worth and are looking to make sure that what they’re bringing into the relationship is going to be protected.”

But it’s not only assets that are addressed in marriage contracts, debt is often an issue, Silbert says.

For example, she says many people enter relationships with large student debts that are later folded into a joint mortgage when the couple buys a home.

The marriage contract, Silbert says, can also protect the more vulnerable member of the relationship. It can acknowledge that one partner might take time off work to take care of family responsibilities, and ensure those non-monetary contributions are later recognized in the event of a separation, including a plan for how that person would be reintegrated into the workforce, she says.

“I see it as a really positive thing. I don’t really see a downside,” Silbert says.

Even the process of preparing a prenuptial agreement can be a positive one for couples because it forces them to have important conversations about finances and expectations, something that is often lost in the preparations of a wedding, she says.

“It’s really easy when there’s such a massive wedding industry to lose sight of the fact that marriage is a legal contract. In reality, it’s not just about the fairy-tale ceremony, it’s also about the beginning of a financial partnership, so it makes sense to take that step with a clear set of shared expectations,” Silbert says.

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