Radmacher v Granatino – greater control in your marriage?


Radmacher v Granantino is without doubt one of the leading landmark ancillary relief matters of recent time. But why has it gained such relevance in the field and what impact does its rulings have on other financial relief matters?

The crux of the case was the validity and enforceability of a prenuptial agreement made between the couple. This was a departure from the usual stance the English and Welsh courts had taken on previous matters involving such agreements. Prenuptial agreements were historically seen as contrary to public policy as women did not previously have equal footing when bargaining the terms of such agreements. The ordinary roles of breadwinner and housemaker meant that the master of the wealth used to be the husband and when such agreements were in place, and the couple subsequently dissolve their unity by way of divorce, the wife would have been left without anything.

While this was the stance of English and Welsh law, prenuptial agreements were regarded entirely normal and routine in other countries in Europe and across the world. The domestic courts considered comments along these lines made by Ms. Radmacher who stated that in France and Germany (where the parties were originally from) such agreements were binding.

In Radmacher v Granatino, the couple married in London in 1998 and later separated in 2006. During their divorce proceedings in 2008, Mr Granatino applied for financial relief at the High Court and he successfully gained an award of £5,560,000.00 to cover his living costs for life, properties in London and Germany and periodical payments for each child. The High Court judge, Mrs. Justice Baron, although noting the existence of the prenuptial agreement, determined that its importance had diminished given that Mr. Granatino did not have legal advice when the contract was agreed now there are children in the marriage.

Ms. Radmacher did not oppose the husband’s fathering needs however did oppose to his long-term financial needs being funded by her family inheritance. She did not feel the prenuptial agreement was given any decisive weight by the Court. She successfully appealed the matter in the High Court. Mr. Granatino appealed to the Supreme Court who dismissed the appeal. The Supreme Court commented that pre and post-nuptial agreements have a ‘magnetic importance’ and spouses should be held to them unless it can be demonstrated that they are unfair in how they were created or the effect that they would have.

Lord Phillips, who gave the substantive judgement for the majority (8 to 1 with Lady Hale dissenting) said:

“The court should give effect to a nuptial agreement that is freely entered into by each party with a full appreciation of its implications unless in the circumstances prevailing it would not be fair to hold the parties to their agreement.”

This therefore prescribes weight and importance to agreements which have been properly and fairly contracted and where agreement between parties have been informed.

What is a prenuptial agreement?

Prenuptial and postnuptial (sometimes antenuptial) agreements are contracts drawn up either before or after the marriage ceremony. Its purpose is to protect assets owned by either party in the event their marriage breaks down at some stage in their life. Whether these agreements are made to be sensible or cynical, it is sometimes important to have such a safety net in place.

In recent years both pre and post nuptial agreements are being given more weight and consideration by the Family Courts in England & Wales.

Here at Goldsmiths Solicitors we can advise and prepare your agreement well in advance of your impending marriage ceremony or alternatively if you were too occupied with wedding celebrations we can now help with a post nuptial agreement. Get in touch.