UK: Pre-Nuptial Agreements can now be Binding in England says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has today upheld a Court of Appeal decision holding Nicholas Granatino to a pre-nuptial agreement which he signed prior to his marriage to the German heiress Katrin Radmacher. 

As a direct result of signing the pre-nuptial agreement, Mr Granatino's financial claims against his former wife's £100m+ fortune have been dramatically restricted.

Mr Granatino challenged the decision of the Court of Appeal, which had significantly reduced the financial award he received from the High Court, but the Supreme Court has dismissed his appeal and has clarified the law relating to pre- and post-nuptial agreements in England and Wales with far-reaching and important implications for married couples, those contemplating marriage, and their advisors. 

Any suggestion that pre-nuptial agreements are not binding in England and Wales is overturned as a result of the decision.  The presumption is to be that they can now be binding, unless unfair.


The parties married on 28 November 1998. At the time, Ms Radmacher ran a boutique in Beauchamp Place, London and Mr Granatino worked for JP Morgan where, at the height of his career, he earned £325,000 a year.  The couple had signed a German style pre-nuptial agreement (otherwise known as a marriage contract), before their wedding, which barred Mr Granatino from making financial claims against his wife on any subsequent divorce.  Ms Radmacher's family required there to be a marriage contract to protect her inherited wealth and her intended further substantial inheritance.

By the time of their separation in 2006, the couple's circumstances had altered significantly. Mr Granatino, no longer working in the City, had opted to study for a D. Phil in biotechnology at Oxford University.  Ms Radmacher had amassed an inherited fortune of over £100m from her family's paper company.

High Court

In the High Court Mrs Justice Baron considered that Mr Granatino's award should be "circumscribed to a degree" to reflect the fact that he had signed a marriage contract. The Judge found that, 'as a man of the world', he understood the underlying premise of the agreement was that he was not entitled to anything on divorce, but she also found that the agreement was manifestly unfair. Mr Granatino was awarded £2.5m for a home, £700,000 to pay off his debts and a further £2,335m (to provide him with a lifetime income). Ms Radmacher was also ordered to provide a new car and fund the cost of a furnished house in Germany for Mr Granatino, to enable him to visit their children at the weekends.

Court of Appeal Decision

Mr Granatino had fully understood the terms of the agreement when he signed the marriage contract. He had the opportunity to avail himself of the conventional safeguards of taking independent legal advice and requiring financial disclosure from his spouse, but had chosen not to.

The Court of Appeal reduced Mr Granatino's award and held that, whilst Ms Radmacher should provide him with the use of a £2.5m home so as to fulfil his role as father of their children, this house would revert to her once their youngest daughter (who was 8 at the time) turned 22.  The Court of Appeal further reduced the £2.335 lump sum allocated to Mr Granatino to such amount as would give him income for 15 years, at which point his financial responsibilities as a home-maker for his daughters would come to an end.

Supreme Court Decision

The Supreme Court's judgment has clarified the law relating to pre-nuptial agreements in several key respects.

The Supreme Court has underlined the distinction between England and the rest of continental Europe, emphasising that, although the economic effect of cases such as Miller and McFarlane may have much in common with community of property regimes being mirrored in England in many cases, the statutory exercise carried out in each and every financial case on divorce does not equate to the existence of a matrimonial property regime generally.

So what is the position regarding pre-nuptial agreements in England and Wales now that this long-awaited decision has been handed down?

The Supreme Court has finally done away with the outdated view that that pre-nuptial agreements are contrary to public policy.  Contractual (which they can be) or not, the court applies the same criteria, such that all the circumstances of the case are taken into account (each case turning on its own facts). The court retains its discretion and therefore can overrule the agreement if so inclined.

The Supreme Court has emphasised that the key, once again, is 'fairness'.  Each party should intend that the agreement should be effective; should be fully aware of the implications of entering into the agreement; should have all of the information material to his or her decision; and should intend that the pre-nuptial agreement should govern the financial consequences of the marriage coming to an end.

If a couple enter into a pre-nuptial agreement under their own free will without undue influence or pressure and are informed of its implications, with the benefit of information which is material to that decision, the English court will give effect to the agreement unless, in the circumstances, it would not be fair to hold the parties to it. 

When assessing whether terms of a pre-nuptial agreement are unfair, the court will consider several key factors, for example, whether, pursuant to the principles set out in White v White and Miller/McFarlane, the needs of one spouse or the requirement of compensation for sacrifices made during the marriage justify a departure from the terms or, for example, whether the terms prejudice the reasonable requirements of any children of the family. 

In this case, the Supreme Court decided that the agreement was freely entered into and that both husband and wife fully appreciated its implications.  It said that while it was right to depart from the agreement to the extent necessary to cater for the needs of the children, there was nothing unfair in holding the husband to the agreement once the children's needs were catered for.

The Supreme Court may have chiselled away at the court's overriding discretion to some degree by emphasising that there should be respect for individual autonomy, stating that it would be paternalistic and patronising to override the agreement simply on the basis that 'the court knows best'.

It has also endorsed the usefulness and importance of pre-nuptial agreements in relation to the treatment of non-matrimonial property; if couples are able to agree what is to happen to an inheritance or assets owned by one party before the marriage, so much the better.  The Supreme Court has suggested that the shorter the marriage, the more likely that the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement will be upheld in their entirety; but parties should not be unfairly held to the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement which has not withstood the passage of time.

In summary, although the English Court maintains ultimate discretion in determining the appropriate financial provision on divorce, the Supreme Court has confirmed that if parties enter into a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, there is no reason why they should not be entitled to have their agreement upheld on divorce, unless it would be unfair.


  • The case is a significant boost for the status of pre-nuptial agreements in England and Wales and is a further step towards making them legally binding.
  • The Supreme Court has endorsed its respect for individual autonomy, encouraging couples to decide, prior to their marriage, how their financial affairs should be regulated.
  • The decision reinforces the notion that where there is significant wealth disparity going into a marriage, it is in the interests of the financially stronger spouse to have a pre-nuptial agreement.
  • The case will likely encourage more couples to enter into pre-nuptial agreements, and will give greater recognition to those overseas pre-nuptial agreements / marriage contracts which are signed by foreign nationals before they move to England, even where conventional English safeguards are not in place.
  • England has acquired a reputation as the 'divorce capital of the world' because people 'play the system' by moving to England to get more money on divorce than they would get overseas. This decision goes some way to reversing that title and many people will consider it long overdue.
  • As stated by Baroness Hale, 'there is not much doubt that the law of marital agreements is a mess. It is ripe for systematic review and reform.' The Law Commission is already undertaking a review and we await its recommendations for statutory reform.
  • In order to reduce arguments over what constitutes 'material information' pre signing and to maximise the effectiveness of a pre-nuptial agreement in England, it is highly recommended that the parties take independent legal advice and disclose material facts before entering into such an agreement.

To read the full text of the judgment please click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.