In Saturday’s Wall Street Journal there was a featured article about the rise in popularity of the prenuptial agreement. According to a 2006 survey sponsored by the matrimonial lawyers group, “80% of matrimonial lawyers said they had seen an increase in couples signing [prenups] in recent years.” Many of the people signing them, however, are part of the Baby Boomer generation. These couples endured the recent financial crisis, when the Dow fell over 50% over two years and home values declined. Finances have always played a prevalent role in marriage, but the Boomer generation has this factor conflated with their excessive rate of divorce. “Almost 40% of boomers who have been married have gone through at least one divorce, according to 2004 Census data, the most recent available, while only about 30% of all people who have been married have been divorced. By their 50th birthday, 27% of boomers have moved on to their second or third marriage.”
I don’t think any cultural critic would seriously suggest that an increased rate in divorce is a great contribution to society. I am always saddened to see the rate of divorce in the US. However, I have chosen to be optimistic since I believe this news has a few silver linings. For one, a prenuptial agreement entails the breaking down of assets. It’s nice to see that women, who are increasingly more college educated and autonomous, will be able to have a pre-arranged financial stake spelt out for them in a contract. The fact that many women prompt this negotiation is a great indication towards their empowerment.The same women who would have a vested interest in retaining their assets are typically college-educated ones who already have a divorce rate hovering in the low-20’s. A straightforward way to delegate compensation if they abandon their potentially-lucrative careers to raise children is an insurance policy.
My parents are not divorced and my mother is a college graduate with a career. However, I know many friends who have parents that married young and, typically, mothers with no higher education or job experience. Divorce tends to leave these women in a significantly less favorable position, and amplifies any disdain. A clear “plan of action” would, if done properly, later aide the party less capable of accruing capital in the marriage.
I hope the normalization of prenuptial agreements may spark a healthy trend with many in my “Millennial” Generation. Prenuptial agreements used to be something that the rich and famous would forge to protect their earnings. A conversation about finances, though admittedly a very difficult one to bring up, at least acknowledges realistic possibilities and gives a sobering “worst case scenario.” The alternative, of course, having ones livelihood subject to a judicial process, is not always congruous and fair. With a rise in popularity, this will hopefully sound less unromantic. Of course, children who are the product of a divorced marriage are much more likely to incur one themselves. Yet my generation seems to be marrying later on in life – which helps decrease the likelihood of divorce. With an amiable agreement on the premises of a relationship beforehand, hopefully the decision to marry the “right” person will be more clear and correct than ever before.
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