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/ 07 Nov 2010

Supreme Court Backs Pre-Nuptial Agreements

On 20th October 2010, Judges in the Supreme Court case of Radmacher v Gratino made a landmark ruling in favour of Pre-Nuptial Agreements by a majority of 8 to 1. The test case related to high cost ancillary relief proceedings between German paper industry heiress, Karin Radmacher, worth an estimated $100 million, and her ex-husband, Nicholas Gratino.

The ruling from the Supreme Court indicates that Pre-Nuptial Agreements are now as enforceable as Separation Agreements and Post-Nuptial Agreements and subject to the same safeguards. The judicial position in this regard is now in line with that of the United States, France and Germany, all of whom recognise the binding nature of Pre-Nuptial Agreements.

What is a Pre-Nuptial Agreement?

A Pre-Nuptial Agreement is a contract entered into by parties before marriage with a view to establishing the division of finances in the event of separation. Whilst the existence a Pre-Nuptial Agreement was not previously held as binding and could be upheld at the discretion of the Court, the decision in the test case of Radmacher on Pre-Nuptial Agreements, decided in favour of a binding nature for such agreements. It is therefore likely that parties entering into such an agreement will now be held to its terms in the event of a breakdown of their marriage.

The Radmacher Case on Pre-Nuptial Agreements

Having met at a London nightclub in 1997, Miss Radmacher had insisted that the only way she could know that her future husband truly loved her for her and not her $100 million fortune was to put in place a Pre-Nuptial Agreement. Having cohabited for 8 months, Miss Radmacher instructed experienced family lawyers to draft the agreement setting out the division of assets to which Mr Gratino entered into. At that time, Mr Gratino had worked as an investment banker in London, earning up to £130,000 per annum. After four years of marriage, however, Mr Gratino began his studies towards a doctorate at Oxford University and his earnings were significantly reduced as a result. After eight years of marriage, the couple, by then with two children, decided to separate.

Initially, the Court had awarded Mr Gratino $5.5 million in ancillary relief proceedings. This payment was vastly reduced by the Court of Appeal to $1 million soon after. On 20th October 2010, the Supreme Court, attaching significant weight to a Pre-Nuptial Agreement between the parties, handed down a judgment to the effect that Mr Gratino would receive a mere £70,000 per annum from his ex-wife until their youngest child is aged 22 years.

How can Hanne & Co help you?

Hanne & Co are one of London’s leading family law firms and our specialist family law department possess decades of experience in complex ancillary relief proceedings and Pre-Nuptial Agreements. Following the Supreme Court ruling in Radmacher, it is likely that many wealthy couples will seek legal advice prior to marriage and put in place Pre-Nuptial Agreements with a view to protecting their respective financial positions.

Far from an unromantic business agreement, a Pre-Nuptial Agreement is a step towards securing simplicity in the unfortunate event that your marriage subsequently breaks down. At Hanne & Co, we are able to appreciate the stressful nature of your big day. We do, however, possess decades of invaluable experience in ancillary relief proceedings and as a leading London law firm, offering specialist services in family law, we are in a position to advise you accordingly.

Hanne & Co have acted for both husbands and wives in complex and international ancillary relief proceedings since 1898. We are also able to offer specialist advice on Post-Nuptial Agreements and Separation Agreements.

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