German heiress wins legal battle over pre-nuptial agreement
Katrin Radmacher, a German heiress, has won a Supreme Court case over her divorce which gives new status to pre-nuptial agreements.
For years, men have tried to enforce pre-nuptial agreements in the event of divorce, to no avail. We all eventually concluded that pre-nups are useless. But then - as soon as a divorcing woman wanted one to be enforced, it was.
The ruling means that her ex-husband, Nicolas Granatino, receives less money than he wanted after the court ruled that an agreement he signed in Germany before they married should stand in this country.
It is also a major step towards pre-nuptial contracts, including those signed abroad, becoming legally enforceable in England and Wales. Pre-nuptial agreements do not currently have a place in English family law.
English courts had previously considered prenuptial agreements not binding when deciding who gets what when a marriage fails.
This is because, previously, women stood to gain and men stood to lose from pre-nuptials being ignored.
But in this case, a woman stood to gain and a man stood to lose from it being enforced.
So they decided to enforce it.
By a majority of eight to one, the justices dismissed the ex-husband's appeal, saying that following their ruling "it will be natural to infer that parties entering into agreements will intend that effect be given to them".
Sure - makes perfect sense.
So why did it not apply in all those hundreds of thousands of previous cases?
And why does this suddenly make sense now?
Lord Phillips, president of the Supreme Court, said the courts would still have the discretion to waive any pre-nup or post-nup agreement, especially when it was unfair to any children of the marriage.
And here's the get-out clause, to ensure that no man shall ever gain from a pre-nuptial agreement. What it should really say, is that the courts will still waive any pre-nup agreement when a woman might lose out.
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