Surprisingly enough, in England and Wales (and Ireland and the Bahamas) the Courts will not enforce prenuptial agreements and couples who have an agreement from a foreign jurisdiction and later seek a divorce in England or Wales will find the worst place they could commence divorce proceedings, and expect to rely on a prenup, is Britain. Savvy litigants who wish to avoid the terms of a prenup, may take early steps to establish jurisdiction in the British Courts for that very reason.
However, a recent case may turn the tide with respect to these agreements. German heiress Katrina Radmacher and her husband Nicolas Granatino signed a prenuptial agreement in Germany, three months before their marriage in London, England in 1998. The agreement provided that Mr. Granatino would make no claims against his wife if their marriage ended.
In 2003 Mr. Granatino left his six figure career as an investment banker and took a job as a researcher at Oxford University where he earned a pittance compared to his former salary. It was at this point that the marriage broke down.
The matter of divorce and related issues came before the British trial court who, in accordance with the law, refused to uphold the prenup and ordered that Mr. Granatino receive $5.8 million pounds. The evidence showed that at the date the prenup was signed, unknown to her fiance, Ms. Radmacher had a net worth of $106 million pounds.
In support of his claim, the husband argued the prenup was in the German language and he did not obtain a translation or seek legal advice.
On appeal, the English Court of Appeal reiterated that the agreement was not valid or enforceable, however, they reduced the husband’s award to $1 million pounds and the right to occupy a home valued at $2.5 million pounds which he was required to relinquish upon his seven year old daughter attaining the age of 22 years. A further appeal was filed with the House of Lords.
According to the British media and family law experts in England, the nine justices of the House of Lords are struggling to agree on the appropriate outcome, however, it is widely reported that the House of Lords intend to change the law so that prenuptial agreements will be valid and enforceable in England and Wales.
Those who are slightly cynical suggest that if the facts were reversed and it was Ms. Radmacher who would receive nothing, the law would remain as is.
The reasons for judgment are expected to be released soon and I will report on the outcome in an update post.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang