Friday, 3 July 2009

Wedding vows

I didn't realise that up till now pre-nuptial agreements weren't legally binding in Britain. So if your spouse had agreed never to claim on your private fortune, or whatever, it would never have been upheld anyway.

But the English Court of Appeal has just ruled that such contracts are in fact legally valid, and German heiress Katrin Radmacher needn't give her ex-husband Nicolas Granatino a penny - as he had agreed before the wedding.

I think the idea of a marriage contract briefly flashed through my mind before I married Jenny, but of course in our case it was pretty pointless. Neither of us had a vast fortune, a stash of Old Masters or anything else of any great value.

But if there's a possibility of gold-digging or any other kind of unscrupulous go-getting, I guess such contracts are a sensible way of preventing it and ensuring the marriage is for genuine reasons.

Mr Granatino had previously been awarded £5.8 million of Katrin's £100 million fortune, but the court decided she didn't have to pay it.

The judges said a pre-nuptial agreement was realistic when divorce was commonplace and could lead to a lot of stress and expense if nothing had been agreed about dividing up assets.

Perhaps we missed a trick not drawing up a PNA. It could have laid down a few useful markers. I could have put strict limits on Jenny's sessions of retail therapy while she could have insisted I clean the house from top to bottom every week.

Although for those couples like us who stay together and aren't likely to divorce anyway, it would just be an extra cash cow for the lawyers as they cobble together all those unnecessary legal provisos. And if you do divorce, then they sting you twice - once when you tie the knot and once when you unravel it. So keep that cheque book handy....

NB: This is the situation in English law. But the law in Scotland and Northern Ireland could be different again!

Photo: Katrin Radmacher

11 comments:

Grannymar said...

I would be very wary about a pre-nuptial agreement. Thankfully I was never in the position of having to sign one. It would in fact make me re think any relationship!

conortje said...

much simpler not to have much money to worry about :-)

meno said...

Neither of us had any money when we got married, so there was no need. But maybe if i got married again, i would want one of these. But first i gotta get rid of this husband. :)

Wisewebwoman said...

I think especially in the case of second older marriages these PNAs are absolutely essential Nick. One never knows what can happen. I'm all in favour.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Grannymar - I know the purpose is good, but it does seem a rather cold and calculating way of starting a marriage.

Conor - Very true. That's why I gave away my last million in a hurry....

Meno - Absolutely, just ditch him and throw yourself at some passing billionaire....

www - If it's a remarriage with a lot more assets at stake, a PNA might well be a wise precaution.

Baino said...

They're not legally binding here but often 'settlements' are made prior to getting married . . . not a great leap of faith to my mind so I wouldn't bother. Just seems a silly way to line a lawyer's pockets to me. We have 'defacto' laws relating to property and divorce laws. Generally a 50/50 split unless kids are invoved then the custodian gets a little more.

Nick said...

Baino - Agreed, making a prior settlement doesn't show much faith in the relationship, but I suppose if there's a lot at stake you might be a bit cautious.

Suburbia said...

Hmmm, seems solicitors are winners all round anyway. I chose the wrong profession!

Nick said...

Suburbia - It seems that if you want to do anything important in life, there's always a lawyer waiting to grab some cash out of it.

rummuser said...

Pre-nupital agreements are a cynical way of ensuring that the marriage is taking place for love and not for money. I would not be caught dead signing one! The rich partner, in my case it would always have to be the other, has doubts about my intentions!

Nick said...

Ramana - Pre-nuptial agreements clash so badly with the tradition of trusting your loved one that I can't see them ever becoming widespread.