Pre-nuptials could become binding after Shackleton loses appeal

The UK courts could be forced to recognise the binding powers of pre-nuptial agreements following a judgment handed down by the Court of Appeal today.

German heiress Katrin Radmacher went to the Court of Appeal to fight a High Court ruling that found she should pay over £5.8m to her ex-husband, despite him agreeing in a pre-nuptial contract not to make a claim to her fortune should they divorce.

The husband, Nicolas Granatino, turned to Payne Hicks Beach partner Fiona Shackleton (pictured), who instructed Nicholas Mostyn QC of 1 Hare Court, to protect his claim to her wealth.

Radmacher instructed Ayesha Vardag of Ayesha Vardag Solicitors, who in turn instructed heavyweight Richard Todd QC of 1 Hare Court to fight her ex-husband’s claim.

Radmacher’s appeal was upheld. The judgment handed down by Lord Justice Thorpe, Lord Justice Rix and Lord Justice Wilson is the clearest signal yet that English and Welsh courts should take pre-nuptials as binding documents, as they already are in Germany and France.

Thorpe LJ ruled: “Due respect for adult autonomy suggests that, subject of course to proper safeguards, a carefully fashioned contract should be available as an alternative to the stress, anxieties and expense of a submission to the width of the judicial discretion.”

In April, the Court of Appeal rejected an attempt by a husband to renegotiate a divorce settlement. The case – Myerson v Myerson -, saw Hare Court’s Martin Pointer QC represent Bryan Myerson in his bid to lower the settlement agreement (1 April 2008).

Mostyn, representing Mrs Myerson, had the case thrown out with Thorpe LJ warning those wanting to renegotiate: “They would be well advised to heed the warning that very few successful applications have been reported.”

That case has now gone to the House of Lords and judgment is pending.