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Pre-nup ruling will shake up divorce law

THE DAYS of lucrative divorce settlements in the UK could be drawing to a close, after a London appeal court ruled yesterday that a pre-nuptial agreement between a wealthy German heiress and her husband was legally binding.<br /><br />Lord Justice Mathew Thorpe handed down a landmark ruling which determined that a contract between heiress Katrin Radmacher and her French spouse Nicolas Granatino, signed prior to their UK marriage in 1998, should be considered in their divorce.<br /><br />Granatino had initially been awarded a divorce settlement worth some &pound;5.8m but the Court of Appeal ruled that he should be given a one-off lump sum of &pound;1m, plus a &pound;2.5m loan for a home that must be returned when the couple&rsquo;s two daughters reach adulthood.<br /><br />The initial ruling had deemed the contract &ldquo;manifestly unfair&rdquo; to Grantino, an investment banker who quit his job to begin a postgraduate degree at Oxford University.<br /><br />Radmacher, a paper industry heiress and one of Germany&rsquo;s richest women, worth in the region of &pound;100m, had Granatino sign a pre-nuptial contract before they married.<br /><br />Justice Thorpe said that future cases of a similar nature should give &ldquo;due weight&rdquo; to such contracts before finalising division of assets, adding that the pre-nuptial had been &ldquo;freely and knowingly agreed&rdquo;.<br /><br />He said a decision to disregard pre-nuptials would not &ldquo;sufficiently recognise the rights of autonomous adults to govern their future financial relationship by agreement&rdquo;.<br /><br />Granatino is understood to be considering whether or not to take the case all the way to the House of Lords, the UK&rsquo;s highest court. Radmacher, 39, said she was &ldquo;delighted&rdquo;.<br /><br />The case represents a watershed moment for divorce law, because pre-nuptial agreements have never before been considered legally binding in the UK.<br /><br />The English legal system has until now been seen as the softest in the world for divorce settlements, because it awarded such hefty payouts to divorcees.