Prenuptial agreements are one of those things that comes with a society where access to divorce is easy and quick. Most of the time I’m of the opinion that as long as both parties went into the process voluntarily and freely and that the language was not fraudulent or misleading it should be enforced much the same as any other contract. A deal is a deal. That’s the accepted view in much of the Western world.
Much, but not all. Take England, for example. Generally speaking English law does not recognize prenuptial contracts. As a result, divorce proceedings usually start from 50-50 and go up from there, making London the "divorce capital for wives". But that may change considerably. Anybody want to guess the reason why? Don’t click on the link just yet. What could possibly change Britain’s refusal to apply prenuptial agreements?
That’s right; a man sued to get the courts to declare that the prenuptial agreement was "null and void" and he should get more.
Nicolas Granatino, a French investment banker, married Katrin Radmacher, a 40-year-old heiress in 1998. The two married, lived and divorced in London, but signed a prenup in Germany. Had they stayed in Germany the end result would have been most likely that the prenup would have been enforced as is, no ifs ands or buts. A divorce settlement gave him almost 6 million pounds, above the agreement. The prenup stated that Nicolas wouldn’t lay claim to any of Katrin’s fortune. But they were living in London, so the prenup shouldn’t matter, right?
Think again. A Court of Appeals slashed the settlement because of that statement in the prenup. It held that the prenup should be given decisive weight, which is exactly what Radmacher’s lawyers are aguing. Granatino’s lawyers, on the other hand, are accusing the courts of reverse sexism. Now he isn’t asking for half of her estate, but he is saying that the settlement as is would leave him financially destitute (a lump sum of 1 million pounds and a 2.5 million pound loan for a house that will be returned whent he youngest daughter turns 22).
Here’s the thing. I don’t dispute that Granatino is the victim of sexism (sexism is sexism whatever the direction; let’s get rid of this reverse nonsense). If the roles are reversed I can hardly see the courts in England coming to this conclusion. At the same time, however, I have to side with Radmacher. A deal is a deal. Unless something significantly changed or there was some sort of fraud on Rachmacher’s part, Granatino should be held to what he signed. It states that he’s a financial investor, so I would presume that he knows how to read a contract better than the average citizen.
And there have been rumblings in Britain to change their view of prenuptual agreements, in light of the divorce settlement of John Charman and the McCartney-Mills divorce (even though that one didn’t result in a 50-50 split). And long term I think it will be more helpful to husbands for Britain to start enforcing contracts signed by citizens regardless of nature.
Short term, though, you can’t help but wonder what would have happened if it had been the divorce of Nicole Granatino and Karl Radmacher.