We have been attending the NJ PBA Convention this week and have had an opportunity to discuss pre-nuptial agreements with so many members of the law enforcement community. There seems to be a lot of misconceptions on what a pre-nup is, whether it is enforceable and whether you should get one. To start with the last question first; yes, you need a pre-nup!
To put it simply, a pre-nuptial agreement is a written agreement that you and your future spouse sign prior to the day you get married. It is something that outlines how you will deal with pre-marital property, property you acquire during your marriage, alimony and anything else that is important to you, like retirement accounts and pensions, in the event of divorce. If you have something when you get married, the ONLY way to ensure it is completely protected from distribution in the unlikely event of your divorce is a pre-nuptial agreement.
When we look at anyone with a pension, such as law enforcement, union or military, the portion of your pension that you earned prior to your marriage will be protected even without a pre-nup. However, if you divorce without a pre-nup that indicates that your spouse is not entitled to your pension in the event of a divorce, then your spouse will likely get fifty percent of the portion of your pension you earned during the marriage. Want to protect your pension? You need a pre-nup.
Is a pre-nup enforceable? The simple answer is yes, IF, and this is a big if, you have an experienced family law attorney prepare your document. Pre-nups are not the time for your to sit down at your computer and draft something. We have very specific rules about pre-nups and a good family law attorney will know exactly how to craft your pre-nup so that it will be enforceable.
Pre-nuptial agreements can prevent a great deal of fighting in the event of divorce. More importantly, it can protect those things that are most important to you, like your pension! If you want experienced attorneys to help you craft a pre-nup that will be enforceable and protect you, give us a call!