MINNEAPOLIS â€” When starry-eyed lovers romanticize about popping the question, they usually don't expect that question to be: â€œWill you sign a prenup?â€
Nonetheless, the question is being asked much more frequently these days, and not just by movie stars and jet-setters. Prenuptial agreements â€” those pre-marriage contracts that spell out who gets what in case you split â€” are becoming part of the wedding planning of a growing number of regular John and, especially, Jane Q. Publics.
â€œThey're the engagement ring of the 21st century,â€ said Ed Winer, a family law specialist with the Moss & Barnett firm in Minneapolis. â€œMany more people are looking at an antenuptial (prenup) agreement as a necessity.â€
In a recent survey, 73 percent of attorneys cited an increase in prenuptial agreements during the past five years, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, or AAML. In addition, 52 percent of the respondents said more women are requesting the agreements.
â€œMore women are bringing assets into the marriage,â€ said Sharon Lach, a lawyer with Messerli & Kramer in Minneapolis. â€œPlus, I think women are just getting smarter. They're thinking that 15 or 20 years down the line, they want to be protectedâ€ if the marriage falls apart.
The fact that many of these unions are second marriages â€” or even beyond â€” is a major factor in the prenup boom. Having been through the emotional and financial cost of a contested divorce, people want to make sure they don't have to do it again.
â€œWhenever I have a client who is going through a messy divorce, the last thing I always say to them is: â€˜If you decide to get married again, call me first,'â€ Lach said.
But prenups are not just for second marriages, said Anoka lawyer Jeff Hicken, the president of the Minnesota chapter of the AAML. With the age climbing at which couples marry for the first time â€” since 1980, it has gone up two years for men to 26.8 and nearly three years for women to 25.1 â€” the lovebirds have more time to amass assets than if they were getting married right out of school.