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British court upholds foreign pre-nups

BRITAIN'S Court of Appeal has ruled that a pre-nuptial agreement made overseas is still valid in Britain, a decision that could have far-reaching implications for those getting divorced.

In a high-profile case involving a German heiress who was married to a French investment banker, the three-judge panel ruled yesterday that the agreement, signed in Germany before the couple married in London, was valid under English law.

"The Court of Appeal, in a carefully reasoned, thoroughly modern judgment, has enabled English matrimonial law to catch up with the rest of the world," said Ayesha Vardag, a solicitor for German heiress Katrin Radmacher.

Radmacher, 40, married Nicolas Granatino in 1998, a few months after signing a pre-nuptial arrangement in which they agreed that he would get nothing if they divorced.

Their marriage began to break down in 2003, after Granatino, 38, gave up his high-paying job with JP Morgan to become a biotechnology researcher at Oxford University earning 30,000 pounds (US$50,000) a year.

"When we met and married, Nicolas and I were broadly on an equal footing financially," Radmacher said. "He too is an heir to a multi-million pound fortune and when we met was an investment banker earning up to 330,000 pounds a year."

Radmacher earns around 2 million pounds a year from her assets, worth 54 million pounds, according to court documents, although she is expected to inherit up to 100 million pounds.

In a lower court ruling last year, Granatino had originally been awarded 5.9 million in the divorce, prompting Radmacher's appeal.

Radmacher has, however, agreed to pay her ex-husband's debts of 700,000 pounds and provide him with a house and maintenance until the youngest of their two daughters turns 22.

Granatino's solicitors indicated he would seek permission to appeal the decision to Britain's highest court, the House of Lords.


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