The Law on What You Saw: Prenuptial Agreements
While Liar Liar debuted in the box office in March of 1997, it still holds up as one of the great courtroom comedies. Starring Jim Carrey in his prime as attorney Fletcher Reede, he deals with matrimonial law-related issues in both his personal life – as his ex-wife is considering moving across the country with the parties’ son and her new boyfriend – and in his professional life, as he is on trial in a contested divorce litigation involving high net worth parties.
Having already addressed the relocation issues in my last blog post discussing the recent movie, Marriage Story, the focus of this blog post will be on prenuptial agreements.
NOTE: While Liar Liar takes place in California, I will assume for the purposes of this exercise that the divorce litigation took place in New Jersey.
The Validity of Prenuptial Agreements in Liar Liar
** CAUTION – SPOILER ALERT **
The main hurdle Fletcher has to litigate (other than having to tell the truth!) is the validity of a prenuptial agreement wherein Fletcher’s client would lose her equitable interest in a large marital estate if it was proven that she had an affair. When Fletcher provokes his own witness to seemingly bury his client’s claims, it is clear that he must look to the law to determine how to succeed for his client against seemingly insurmountable odds.
New Jersey premarital agreement laws mandate that the burden of proof to set aside a prenuptial agreement rests with the party alleging the agreement to be unenforceable (in this case, Fletcher and his client).
There are really only two arguments that can be made to set aside a prenuptial agreement by statute:
- The agreement was entered into involuntarily, or
- The agreement was unconscionable when it was executed (unless the agreement was signed before 2013, wherein the issue would be treated differently).
The standard of whether an agreement is unconscionable is defined in the statute as well.
A prenuptial agreement can only be unconscionable if:
- There was no full and fair disclosure of earnings, property, and financial obligations of the other party
- There was no voluntary and express waiver of any right to disclosure of property or financial obligations
- There was no reasonable basis to have adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party, or
- The party did not consult with independent counsel and did not expressly waive that right in writing
While the details are not completely fleshed out in the movie, Fletcher could not cogently argue that the agreement was unconscionable (as he could not tell a lie). However, he realized that his client had lied about her age (amongst other things) to get married without issue. Fletcher successfully argued that as a minor, she could not have voluntarily entered into an agreement. As a result, the prenuptial agreement was set aside.
Know Your Rights & Obligations Before Signing a Prenuptial Agreement
Obviously, Liar Liar is an extreme example of a prenuptial agreement challenged. It is important to know prior to entering into a prenuptial agreement, however, what rights and obligations you have.
Whether you are interested a prenuptial agreement, or you are getting divorced and feel as though your prenuptial agreement is at issue, Ziegler, Resnick & Epstein can assist you in properly addressing your legal needs.
If you need legal support, do not hesitate to reach out today. Call us at (973) 878-4373 to schedule a consultation.