US-style Binding Prenuptial Agreements May Be Adopted in The United Kingdom


How many people who file for divorce in Pasadena retrospectively wish they had asked a lawyer to help them draft a prenuptial agreement? In the United States, prenuptial agreements are legally binding. In the United Kingdom, such agreements are not. Not so fast... It turns out that the United Kingdom's Supreme Court may have set a precedent for legally-binding prenuptial agreements in the UK.

High-profile UK divorce agreements - such as the 2008 divorce of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills as well as JP Morgan banker Nicolas Granatino and his wife - have led the United Kingdom to consider making US-style prenuptial agreements legally binding. Under current law in the UK, the courts decide how property should be shared between a divorcing couple. But this month, the UK Law Commission began the process of changing prenuptial agreement laws.

"This is an issue that needs to be handled with care," says Elizabeth Cooke, a commissioner who is leading a public consultation on the issue.

She explained that the review will look into "how a new approach might balance the desire of some couples to plot their own future with more certainty against the need for safeguards against exploitation and the creation of hardship."

In the case of McCartney and Mills, no prenuptial agreement was signed by the couple and Mills won a settlement of $37.7 million. In the case of JP Morgan banker Nicolas Granatino, his claim asserted that his prenuptial agreement with then-wife Katrin Radmacher, a German heiress, should not be enforced, citing Radmacher's failure to disclose the entirety of her wealth. In the end, the judges did not defer to the prenuptial agreement and Granatino was awarded around $10 million. On appeal, the decision was overturned and the Supreme Court determined that prenuptial agreements, when agreed upon freely, are enforceable.

After the Radmacher judgment, more people are seeking prenuptial agreements in the UK.

"After the judgment, we have seen a lot more inquiries," says London divorce lawyer Caroline Wright.