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What celebrities can teach us about marriage (and divorce)

Key Points
  • High-net-worth couples, famous or otherwise, may benefit from hammering out a prenuptial agreement before tying the knot.
  • But prenups, which generally safeguard real estate and investments holdings, can also cover one partner's student loan or credit card debt, making them increasingly popular among all couples regardless of wealth.
Justin Bieber attends the 'China: Through The Looking Glass' Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 in New York City.
Getty Images

Young love, a whirlwind romance that leads to a marriage proposal and a combined net worth in the multimillions: It's no wonder lawyers get involved.

But newly engaged celebrities, such as Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin, or Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson, aren't the only ones who should consider hammering out a prenuptial agreement before tying the knot.

In fact, many couples may benefit from having one — if they have the nerve to bring it up.

"It can always be a touchy subject," said Emily Pollock, a partner in the matrimonial and family law department at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP. "You are drawing lines around mine, yours and ours that can feel counterintuitive when you are planning a marriage.

Still, "these are the kinds of conversations that couples should have," she said.

The idea is catching on. Across the board, 62 percent of attorneys in a recent survey have seen an increase in the total number of clients who are seeking prenuptial agreements over the past three years, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

That follows a fivefold increase in prenups over the past 20 years, according to Arlene Dubin, chair of the matrimonial and family law practice of Moses & Singer in New York.

Just over half of the lawyers polled cited a boost in the number of millennials, specifically, requesting prenups, the academy said. Only 2 percent saw a decrease among 18-to-34-year-olds.

You are drawing lines around mine, yours and ours that can feel counterintuitive when you are planning a marriage.
Emily Pollock
matrimonial law attorney

Of course, high-net-worth couples, famous or otherwise, may have more complicated assets to value and distribute, including royalties and other ongoing income streams.

But prenups, which generally safeguard real estate and investments holdings, savings accounts or a business, also offer the chance to hash out divorce handling of issues such as joint efforts to pay off one person's debt, or how a partner could be compensated for leaving the workforce to care for their children.

For millennials, in particular — saddled with outstanding student loan debt, which now stands at a record $1.5 trillion — that may be reason enough to consider such a protection.

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Here’s why millennial prenups are on the rise

In any of those cases, it makes sense to consult a lawyer before saying "I do," according to Pollock.

Celebrity status aside, "whether to do a prenup is a decision the parties should make together, but it should be an informed decision," she said.

The reality remains that about half of all marriages end in divorce, and that is where even the most Hollywood-worthy love story can turn messy, particularly these days.

The majority of matrimonial lawyers also reported an increase in the number of contentious divorce cases over the past three years and said that divorcing spouses in the current climate were increasingly hostile, the matrimonial lawyers academy found.

More from Personal Finance:
More millennials sign prenups before marriage
1 in 8 divorces is caused by student loans
Five money mistakes that can destroy a marriage