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Planning for an upcoming wedding is an overwhelming ordeal. California couples spend hours upon hours selecting the right venue, picking the perfect date, sending out invitations and planning every last detail of their perfect day. Few, however, look ahead to something else they may want to plan for — property division in the event of a divorce down the line. Although prenuptial agreements may feel distinctly unromantic, having one can help couples who must later traverse through the emotionally-fraught divorce process. 

Although there is still some lingering stigma around prenups, surveys indicate that more people are coming to appreciate them for what they are — a family law planning tool. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that 62 percent of attorneys who participated in its study said that more of their clients were seeking help with prenups over the past three years. While experts understand that couples seem to be increasingly interested in prenups, many are still unsure of why this sudden shift in attitude is happening. This trend is especially confusing considering that millennials generally earn less than their parents did at the same age and are marrying far less frequently. 

So if marriage rates are not going up and income is stagnant, what is going on? Rather than protecting their assets from their spouse, millennials seem to be shielding themselves from their partners’ debts. Credit card debt and hefty student loans are widespread among this generation, which can make spouses easy targets for creditors. 

In general, debt incurred before marriage is considered separate property and not subject to property division. But what if one person pays off a significant portion of a spouse’s debt only to divorce soon after? Of what if that debt grows during the course of the marriage? These are complicated questions with significant, real-world implications for many soon-to-be married couples. Utilizing a carefully crafted prenuptial agreement can help California couples protect individual interests in the event of a divorce.