This week’s edition of The Sunday Times carried a lurid headline, “An end to the goldmine divorce”, with accompanying pictures of the heiress Katrin Radmacher and her former husband Nicolas Granatino. The latter couple’s spectacular and hard fought case involving the validity of a prenuptial agreement, made in Germany between a German and French national living in the UK, is due to be the subject of a judgement by the judges of our Supreme Court , which is expected to give a general steer about the validity of prenuptial agreements in England and Wales.
The Law Commission, which recommends potential changes in the law to government, is also currently considering this area of the law. Professor Elizabeth Cooke of the Law Commission has now confirmed that various options will be put forward to Government, including recognition of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements and that the report will be accompanied by a draft bill for consideration by Parliament.
The argument in favour of change, according to her, is that people are being deterred from marriage by big pay-outs under the current law, and she states: “There is a certain amount of financial carnage when people get divorced. A well drawn up prenup can give greater predictability”.
With great respect to Professor Cooke, I do not think it is appropriate to describe a financial settlement between the parties as “carnage”. Nor do I agree with the argument that by signing a prenup, hundreds of thousands of people in this country who currently aren’t getting married will be heading off to the altar.
Couples are deliberately choosing not to marry, not because of the law, or any change to the law as envisaged, but because society has irreparably changed. Most people now aren’t now marrying too young or immaturely and then bitterly regretting it– whether shortly afterwards or years later. They aren’t leaping into the legalities until they are absolutely sure that they are making the right decision. Others that don’t marry, including some of those who are dependent upon state benefits, won’t marry either – with or without this proposed change in legislation.
I explore the subject of prenuptial agreements in greater detail in a later post.