Started by slayton, Oct 23, 2010, 05:57 AM
Traditional marriage laws are swept aside in landmark decision by Supreme CourtBy Steve Doughty and Vanessa AllenLast updated at 9:10 AM on 21st October 2010Judges yesterday tore up England's marriage laws to offer couples binding prenuptial contracts.They used the test case of a German heiress worth £100million and her millionaire French husband to bring a revolutionary change to the laws around marriage and divorce.Their Supreme Court ruling means that prenuptial agreements which set down a couple's divorce settlement before their wedding will have full legal status in England for the first time.The deals will mean that brides and grooms will know they can keep their own cash and property in the event that their marriage crashes.Only manifestly unfair contracts would be overturned by the courts.In the case, paper industry heiress Karin Radmacher won the right to protect her fortune and hundreds of millions of pounds controlled by her family out of the hands of her former husband, a City banker turned academic.But in the process of deciding the case, the Supreme Court judges swept away hundreds of years of legal precedent that a married couple should be together for life and their property should be shared - something enshrined in the Church of England's marriage ceremony since 1662 when the groom says: 'With all my worldly goods I thee endow.'Prenup deals have long held influence in courts in America and Europe.But in England the courts have rarely enforced them and judges have usually chosen to ignore them.Miss Radmacher, 41, had fought a four-year court battle to withhold the vast majority of her fortune from her ex-husband, former investment banker Nicolas Granatino after he claimed that the contract was unfair because he had not realised the true extent of his wife's vast fortune.Mr Granatino demanded a £9.2million pay-out and was initially given £5.5million, but that was later reduced to £1million in the Court of Appeal.Yesterday the Supreme Court told him he will receive just £70,000 a year from his ex-wife for the next 14 years, until their youngest child turns 22.Court President Lord Phillips said that the law cannot prevent a couple deciding how to arrange their affairs should they come to live apart and that all English courts should follow the precedent.'In future it will be natural to infer that parties who enter into an ante-nuptial agreement to which English law is likely to be applied intend that effect should be given to it,' he said.But the decision came only after serious division among the judges of the country's new leading court.One Supreme Court justice, Baroness Hale, called the ruling undemocratic and damaging to marriage, and added that it was wrong that it should have been made by a court comprising eight male judges and only one woman.In a strongly-worded statement of dissent, Lady Hale said there were six legal reasons why the ruling was wrong, one being that it was 'inconsistent with the continued importance attached to the status of marriage in English law'.She said her fellow judges were treating married couples in the same way as unmarried people and added that it was 'wrong to equate married with unmarried parenthood'.'Marriage still counts for something in the law of this country and long may it continue to do so,' she said.Lady Hale also said the ruling was unfair to the poorer partner in a marriage - 'usually, though by no means invariably, she'.The controversy spread outside the court, with bishops warning that the decision undermines marriage and lawyers saying that judges have usurped the rights of Parliament and elected MPs to make the law.Brenda Long, a partner at law firm Blandy & Blandy, said: 'This ruling means the judiciary has overstepped its prescribed role of interpreting law and actually created law instead,' she said.Mr Granatino, 39, who attended court wearing scruffy jeans and a blue jumper refused to comment after the hearing. But Miss Radmacher, who wore a white mini-dress with a plunging neckline, said: 'I'm delighted that Britain has upheld fairness.'Prenups are commonly recognised in countries around the world.In the U.S. all states now recognise prenups, but some judges have opposed them because they were seen as damaging to marriage.They are also recognised in France and Germany.Heiress who hangs on to her millionsFor heiress Katrin Radmacher, a prenuptial agreement was the ultimate test of love.Far from being an unromantic business contract, she insisted it was the only way she could know Nicolas Granatino truly wanted her and not just her £100million fortune.The besotted groom, an investment banker, signed the deal and insisted he did not want a penny from his fiancee, who he had met just eight months earlier.Later, he would claim that he had somehow failed to notice that his bride-to-be was one of Europe's wealthiest women.Mr Granatino - himself the heir to a multi-million pound fortune - said he believed the Radmacher family were 'well off'.But their vast fortune from a paper-making empire was not 'particularly evident' to him during visits to their family home in Germany, he said.He said: 'At the time of signing the pre-nup agreement I didn't know even broadly about her wealth.She was renting a perfectly nice single-bedroom flat in Chelsea, and I visited the family's chalet in Verbier.'The couple met at London's Tramp nightclub in November 1997 and married a year later.At the time Mr Granatino was an investment banker with JP Morgan, earning more than £120,000-a-year, and boasted he would soon be a billionaire.But after four years of marriage he told his wife he was desperate to quit his job and wanted to return to university.He began a doctorate at Oxford University, where as an academic his annual earnings were reduced to around £30,000.The couple, who by then had two daughters, Chiara and Chloe, began to spend more time apart and eventually separated in August 2006, after eight years.During the ensuing High Court divorce battle, Mr Granatino asked for £9.2million, despite the pre-nup agreement.The judge ruled that Mr Granatino was entitled to £5.5million from his ex-wife, including £2.5million for a house, £25,000 for a car and £700,000 to pay off his debts.But the Court of Appeal later reduced the pay-out to £1million. Mr Granatino's legal team, which included Sir Paul McCartney's divorce lawyer Fiona Shackleton, said he faced financial ruin and even bankruptcy if his divorce settlement was not increased, and took the case to the Supreme Court.But Miss Radmacher's lawyers argued he could always return to banking if he was really facing 'financial catastrophe'.More significantly, he can also expect to inherit millions from his tax exile father Antoine Granatino, the former vice-president of computer giant IBM.The French industrialist has an estimated £30million fortune and lives in a luxury apartment in Kensington, next to Hyde Park, with a holiday villa in Antibes.Miss Radmacher's solicitor said the Supreme Court ruling meant she would now pay him £70,000-a-year until 2024, when their youngest daughter turns 22.The maintenance payments are tax-free, making them the equivalent of a £130,000annual salary.Mr Granatino will also live rent-free in one of her multi-million pound homes in London, and will have free use of a holiday home in France.
Only manifestly unfair contracts would be overturned by the courts.
The deals will mean that brides and grooms will know they can keep their own cash and property in the event that their marriage crashes.
How many times have we seen a woman who became a wife and decides unilaterally to take some easier job that pays far less and the husband is helpless - and then he gets screwed in a divorce.
(see above; in addition to just being an irritating statement from a controlling sit-at-home, it implies he can never ever ever change his mind no matter how much circumstances change; what a fucking bitch).