Supreme Court in Britain Gives More Legal Force to Prenuptial Agreements

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LONDON — A ruling by the Supreme Court here on Wednesday gave prenuptial agreements more weight in divorce cases, bringing British law closer in line with that in the United States.

The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Nicolas Granatino, a former JPMorgan Chase banker, asking the court to give less weight to an agreement he signed with Katrin Radmacher, a wealthy German heiress, before they married in 1998 that said that neither should profit from the wealth of the other.

British lawyers followed the case closely, awaiting more clarity on how much importance courts in Britain should give to prenuptial agreements, which had been more popular in the United States and in the rest of Europe.

Simon Bruce, a lawyer representing Ms. Radmacher, said in a statement that the ruling “means prenups are binding as long as they are fair.” He added: “Everybody hopes their marriage will last a lifetime. From today we are allowed to prepare for the possibility that it might not be the case.”

British courts have the discretion to decide on a case-by-case basis whether prenuptial agreements are binding. This has contributed to a reputation for awarding huge payouts in divorce cases, including recently to the ex-wives of Paul McCartney and the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

“I’m delighted that Britain has upheld fairness,” Ms. Radmacher said in a statement. “For Nicolas and I, in our homelands — France and Germany — these agreements are entirely normal and routine.”

Ms. Radmacher and Mr. Granatino divorced in 2006. At that point Mr. Granatino had quit his career as a banker to become a researcher at the University of Oxford. He applied to the court for financial help, arguing that he did not receive appropriate legal advice when signing the prenuptial agreement.

Mr. Granatino was initially granted more than £5.5 million, or $8.6 million, which would have given him an annual income of about $158,000 for life and allowed him to buy a London home where the couple’s two daughters could visit, according to court documents. Ms. Radmacher appealed that ruling.

“The husband should only be granted provision for his role as the father of the two children and not for his own long-term needs,” the court said in a statement.

Ms. Radmacher will now pay Mr. Granatino about $55,500 per child per year, and will pay for a London house so he can be closer to their daughters and for a property near her house in France, Ms. Radmacher’s lawyer said.

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