Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pre-Nups Enforceable in England: The Katrin Radmacher Case

The UK Supreme Court just ruled that pre-nuptial agreements are enforceable under English law in certain circumstances. I haven't seen the full judgment, but here are extracts from the FT:

... the Supreme Court decided by a majority of eight justices to one to uphold a pre-nuptial agreement signed by Katrin Radmacher, a German paper industry heiress worth more than £100m, which was being challenged by her French ex-husband Nicolas Granatino, a former investment banker at JPMorgan.
The couple married in late 1998 and had signed a pre-nuptial agreement four months earlier, waiving their rights to claim against each other’s wealth if they split.
Mr Granatino, who is studying for a doctorate at Oxford university, admits that he willingly entered into the deal but claims he did not know the extent of his wife’s wealth and did not receive independent legal advice.
His lawyers also pointed out their circumstances when they split in 2006 were very different from when they met at members’ only Tramp nightclub in Mayfair, when Ms Radmacher was running a fashion store in central London.
Mr Granatino had since quit his City job to study for his Oxford university doctorate and has started patenting his biochemical processes.
Court documents show that Mrs Radmacher has accepted that if her former husband, who has just completed a doctorate at Oxford University and is now looking for a research post, fails in this appeal, he will face “financial ruin”.

Lord Phillips, president of the Supreme Court, said the majority of justices: “... hold that in this case the agreement was freely entered into and that both the husband and wife fully appreciated its implications.”

There is predictable condemnation from some quarters about the "cheapening of marriage", etc. I think this is a win for those who favour party autonomy and freedom of contract and does not cheapen marriage in any way.