The English Supreme Court has finally delivered its ruling in the land mark decision of Radmacher v Granatino.
The French husband and German wife signed a pre-nuptial agreement providing that neither party would receive any assets from the other on divorce. Following an 8 year marriage and 2 children Mr Grantino made full claims for ancillary relief against his wife who was an extremely wealthy German heiress. At first instance Mrs Justice Baron awarded Mr Granatino in the region of £5.5m. Frau Radmacher appealed this decision and the Court of Appeal substantially reduced the award and provided that the housing which Mr Granatino was to receive should be held on trust for Frau Radmacher and revert to her once the youngest child reached the age of 22. Mr Granatino in turn appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court by a majority decision of 8 to 1 dismissed the appeal and upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision. In so doing the Supreme Court placed great weight on three questions;
a. Were there circumstances attending the making of the agreement that detract from the weight that should be accorded to it?
b. Were there circumstances attending the making of the agreement that enhance the weight that should be accorded to it; the foreign element?
c. Did the circumstances prevailing when the court’s order was made make it fair or just to depart from the agreement?
Whilst this decision does not have the effect of making all pre-nuptial agreements binding where the parties have entered into the agreement of their own free will and “without undue influence or pressure, and informed of its (the agreement’s) implications” it seems as though the agreement will be upheld unless it can be shown to be manifestly unfair. The implication appears to be that it will be very difficult in future to show that any such agreement is sufficiently unfair to justify altering the terms of the pre-nuptial agreement. The Supreme Court did thankfully confirm that no such agreement can operate to allow a parent not to meet his or her financial responsibilities towards any children of the family.
As a result of this decision pre-nuptial agreements will now be more important than ever and many prospective spouses will view such an agreement as a necessary pre-requisite to marriage.
For more information and to receive advice on pre and post nuptial agreements please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 20 7420 5000