Radmacher (formerly Granatino) v Granatino [2010] UKSC 42

In a case which attracted considerable publicity, the Supreme Court examined the principles to be applied by a court when deciding, in the course of considering the financial arrangements following the breakdown of a marriage, what weight should be given to an arrangement between the husband and wife made before the marriage. Here the French husband and German wife had signed an ante-nuptial agreement before a notary in Germany three months before their marriage, at the instigation of the wife. Under the agreement neither party would acquire any benefit from the property of the other during the marriage or on its termination. By the time the marriage broke down 8 years later the couple had two children, the husband had left his career in the city to pursue research studies, and the wife had inherited considerable sums from her family’s business. The husband applied to the court for financial relief over and above that awarded to him to enable him to share the care of the children until the youngest reached the age of 22. The wife contended that their antenuptial agreement should be given decisive weight in the circumstances of the case.  Despite the fact that an ante-nuptial agreement may make provisions that conflict with what a court would otherwise consider to be fair, the Supreme Court held that the following principle should henceforth be applied: a 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. In the right case, and this was found by the majority to be one, an ante-nuptial agreement could have decisive or compelling weight. There was a notable dissent from Lady Hale, who felt strongly that the law of marital agreements was a mess which Parliament was in the process of reviewing and should be left to reform. The unusual facts of this case obscured the fact that the object of ante-nuptial agreement was to deny the economically weaker spouse (commonly the wife) the provision to which she would otherwise be entitled.