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Pre-Nuptial Agreements Given "Decisive" Status in English Law - Radmacher v Granatino

Monday, 25 October 2010


Recently, the Supreme Court of England and Wales handed down its much anticipated Judgment in the case of Radmacher v Granatino. This case involved a German heiress Katrin Radmacher (estimated to be worth £100m), who wanted to rely on a Pre-Nuptial Agreement, signed prior to her marriage, within her divorce proceedings. The case has received much publicity as the decision sheds light on the validity of Pre-Nuptial Agreements in English law. Hitherto Pre-Nuptial Agreements had not been persuasive on the Courts.

Nicholas Granatino, the former husband of Katrin Radmacher, took the case to the Supreme Court, after the Court of Appeal reduced his original divorce settlement from more than £5million to £1million.

The Court of Appeal had said that "decisive weight" should be given to the Pre-Nuptial Agreement signed by Mr Granatino and Ms Radmacher. The Pre-Nuptial Agreement stated that Mr Granatino would make no claim against Ms Radmacher's fortune in any future divorce proceedings. Their Pre-Nuptial Agreement was signed before a notary in Germany, even though their divorce proceedings took place in England and Wales.

By a majority of 8 to 1, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal. As such, Courts should now give effect to Pre-Nuptial Agreements which are freely entered into and where doing so would not be unfair.

Ms Radmacher and Mr Granatino's case has been eagerly awaited by family lawyers. The case has been seen as the absolute test as to whether Pre-Nuptial Agreements are enforceable in English law, in line with the rest of Europe and the US.

It should be noted that the Supreme Court did not say that Pre-Nuptial Agreements are now legally binding, as that would require a change in legislation. The Justices said that Pre-Nuptial Agreements cannot oust the jurisdiction of the Court, but that "the Court must, however, give appropriate ("decisive") weight to such an agreement."

So, in what circumstances would a Court now give "decisive weight" to a Pre-Nuptial Agreement? It would be considered on a case by case basis and with regard to all circumstances of the case. Any Pre-Nuptial Agreement would need to comply with the six safeguards recommended in the 1998 Home Office Consultation Document called "Supporting Families". The Law Commission is currently considering this area of law and is expected to report in 2012. In light of the decision in favour of Ms Radmacher, The Law Commission may report that Pre-Nuptial Agreements become legally binding in England and Wales and a change in the law may arise.

Should a Pre-Nuptial Agreement be considered before a marriage or civil partnership? Pre-Nuptial Agreements should now be seen as a consideration when contemplating marriage or a civil partnership. The idea of Pre-Nuptial Agreements is of course not romantic. However, as Ms Radmacher herself stated, her Pre-Nuptial Agreement was "meant to be a way of proving you are only marrying for love. It was a natural part of the marriage process." Naturally, she was pleased with the decision, but saddened at the four years it had taken. She said "It is important to me that no one else should have to go through this. I am delighted that Britain has upheld fairness."

If you are, therefore, planning to marry or enter into a civil partnership, you should seriously consider entering into a Pre-Nuptial Agreement especially if there is a disparity between the two of you in terms of the assets being brought into the marriage or civil partnership.

The family lawyers at Rollingsons can help in this process. They have expertise and knowledge on the six safeguards to be included in a Pre-Nuptial Agreement in order to ensure that the same carries "decisive weight" and is valid.

If you have already entered into a Pre-Nuptial Agreement, the family lawyers at Rollingsons can also review this in light of the decision in this landmark case of Radmacher v Granatino.

If you wish to discuss any issues that concern you arising from this article or any family law issues generally then contact the family lawyers at Rollingsons on 020 7611 4848.