How romantic are Pre-nups on Valentine’s Day or
“Auf Wiedersehen Ehevertrag”
We should all remember the landmark decision in Radmacher v. Granatino when the Supreme Court tore up England’s marriage laws to offer couples binding pre-nuptial contracts. Miss Radmacher, 41, had fought a four-year court battle to withhold the vast majority of her fortune from her ex-husband, former investment banker Nicolas Granatino after he claimed that the contract was unfair because he had not realised the true extent of his wife’s vast fortune.
Mr Granatino demanded a £9.2million pay-out and was initially given £5.5million, but that was later reduced to £1million in the Court of Appeal. Then in October 2010 the Supreme Court told him he was entitled to receive just £70,000 a year from his ex-wife for the next 14 years, until their youngest child turns 22.
One Supreme Court Justice, Baroness Hale, called the ruling undemocratic and damaging to marriage. Lady Hale said there were six legal reasons why the ruling was wrong, one being that it was ‘inconsistent with the continued importance attached to the status of marriage in English law’.
Mr Granatino had signed a German pre-nup (“Ehevertrag”) and refused to have a translator present when he signed the document in front of a German Notary. More recently, a Judge in Manhattan has said ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ to a couple’s pre-nup (“Ehevertrag”). The Judge was presented with a German Pre-Nup which was written in German. The Wife said that she didn’t understand that it meant that she was giving up all rights to her husband’s vast fortune. Art gallery owner Nathalie Karg claimed her husband Anton Kern’s powerful parents had tricked her into signing the deal by telling her it only barred claims to their own money. The pre nup papers were presented to Mrs Karg by her in-laws — famed painter Georg Kern Baselitz and his wife, Elke — during a 1997 trip to their home at the medieval Castle Derneburg, outside Hanover, Germany.
“..You are not getting the castle”
Mrs Karg said Anton Kern and his parents insisted they only wanted to protect their own assets, such as their castle. Allegedly the husband, Anton Kern joked before his fiance signed the papers that his “parents are excited (about the marriage), but you are not getting the castle”. But after she filed for divorce in 2012, Mrs Karg discovered that the German prenuptial agreement actually forfeited her rights to her husband’s own fortune aswell, which itself was estimated at tens of millions of dollars.
Father in law, Georg Baselitz, whose work is exhibited at MoMA and the Guggenheim, said in a Manhattan court hearing that he never offered to provide his Swiss-born daughter in law a written translation of the agreement. He also said he “was not concerned with whether or not [Mrs Karg] understood or did not understand German.”
Understand what you are signing
Manhattan Supreme Court Special Referee, Sue Ann Hoahng however kicked out the pre-nup and said she believes Mrs Karg’s understanding was crucial. She found that “While it is clear the plaintiff is a savvy business woman, independent and strong-willed, it does not contradict the fact that she trusted, relied on and believed her fiancé when he translated the meaning of the agreement as: ‘You are waiving all rights to (my) father’s wealth’. She had no reason not to believe him. According to both (parties), they were in love.”
Whether Mrs Karg, who now runs her own gallery on Great Jones Street, New York will actually get a share of her husband’s inheritance is an issue for an upcoming divorce trial.
Don’t get lost in translation
If your fiance this Valentine’s night asks you to sign a pre-nuptial agreement in a foreign jurisdiction in a foreign language you do not understand, don’t get too overwhelmed by the moment – get independent advice immediately. And when you do, please make sure that you choose an international divorce lawyer, who is experienced in family law in that particular country.
At Paradigm Family Law, we wish everyone a very Happy Valentine’s Day. But if you need advice on this or any other family law issue we are here to help. Frank Arndt, Head of International Family Law can advise on the legalities or otherwise of a pre nuptial agreement (whether German or otherwise). Feel free to call him on 0845 6020422 or email Paradigm Family Law at [email protected] to make arrangements for a free initial consultation.