Britain’s court of appeal has ruled that a prenuptial agreement made overseas is still valid in Britain, a decision that could have far-reaching implications for those going through divorce.
In a high-profile case involving a German heiress who was married to a French investment banker, the three-judge panel ruled yesterday that the agreement, signed in Germany before the couple married in London, was valid under English law.
“The Court of Appeal, in a carefully reasoned, thoroughly modern judgment, has enabled English matrimonial law to catch up with the rest of the world,” said Ayesha Vardag, a solicitor for Katrin Radmacher, the German heiress, after the ruling. “From today, grown-ups can agree in the best of times what will happen in the worst of times.”
Ms Radmacher (40) married Nicolas Granatino in 1998, a few months after signing a prenuptial arrangement in which they agreed he would get nothing if they divorced.
Their marriage began to break down in 2003, after Mr Granatino (38) gave up his high-paying job working in emerging markets for JP Morgan to become a biotechnology researcher at Oxford University earning £30,000 pounds (€35,000).
“When we met and married, Nicolas and I were broadly on an equal footing financially,” Ms Radmacher said after the ruling.
“He too is an heir to a multimillion pound fortune and when we met was an investment banker earning up to £330,000 a year. The [prenuptial] agreement was at my father’s insistence as he wanted to protect my inheritance.
Ms Radmacher, whose father works in the paper industry, earns an income of about £2 million a year from her assets, which are worth £54 million, according to court documents, although she is expected to inherit up to £100 million.
In a lower court ruling last year, Mr Granatino had originally been awarded £5.9 million in the divorce, prompting Ms Radmacher’s appeal. Ms Radmacher has, however, agreed to pay her ex-husband’s debts of £700,000 and provide him with a house and maintenance until the youngest of their two daughters turns 22.
Divorce and family lawyers said the court’s decision could have far-reaching implications. “In light of this decision, it would be foolhardy for any clients entering a prenuptial agreement to assume that they will not be held to the terms,” said Emma Hatley, a partner at Stewarts Law LLP.
“For the financially disadvantaged party they must think very carefully, having taken specialist advice, on the rights they are potentially giving up.” said Jeffrey Nedas, a forensic matrimonial accountant: “I expect to see an upsurge in prenuptial agreements where one or both parties are wealthy individuals or members of wealthy families.” – (Reuters)