“Well…I put a lot of thought into this and I think I would like you to sign a prenuptial agreement”. With this line George Costanza persuasively suggests to his fiancée, Susan, that she should sign a prenuptial In this famous, Seinfeldian line George Costanza tries to convince Susan, his fiancee, to sign a prenup. George thinks that Susan will be so offended by his demand that she will break up with him, so he can escape their engagement without looking responsible.
Like most of his schemes, however, this one backfires as she gladly consents to sign it. She has so much more income than him that she has no issue with signing a prenuptial agreement.
The status of prenups in Britain has been shifting, however. Research carried out for the solicitors in London law firm Mishcon de Reya discovered that men under the age of forty five who earn greater than £100,000 a year are 3 times as likely to have a prenup than those over 45. 17% of men under 45 has a prenuptial agreement of some kind.
The fascinating thing about the growing acceptance of prenups is that in Britain they have no legal weight. Judges regularly disregard prenuptial contracts, and for this reason many divorce lawyers in London have described the city as the divorce capital of the world.
This Wednesday, however, the standing of prenups did a 180. The Guardian affirms today that Katrin Radmacher, a German millionaire, successfully got the supreme court to uphold a prenuptial agreement she made with her ex-husband to protect her inheritance. Granatino decided in a prenuptial agreement not to claim against his now ex-wife if they separated, and then did in fact claim against her. He claimed there were a number of elements of the deal which made it unenforcable.
Mr Granatino in the beginning won £5.85m in a high court . The case was appealed, and the total was reduced down to about £1m. The case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. The everyone involved expected the decision quite some time ago, but it was delayed due to serious dissimilarities of opinion between the justices.
Richard Todd, a well respected family law lawyer in London, was chosen by Ms Radmacher to represent her. Considering that the opposing counsel included solicitors that had represented members of the royal family, John Cleese, and Paul McCartney Mr Todd’s victory is rather impressive.
Until the law is formally changed the court’s verdict will set a new precedent on the status of prenuptial agreements in the UK. Now, as Ajmal Azam at the Guardian writes, “unless one party to the prenuptial has suffered from a material lack of disclosure, information or advice, or unless the agreement fails to make adequate provision for dependent children, the courts will enforce the terms”.
Quite frankly it is well past time the UK started recognizing pre-nuptial contracts, as long as they meet the requirements for contractual agreements in general. Men and women alike would benefit significantly from the power to establish guidelines on how non-communal property will be divided in the event of a divorce.