The Royal Courts of Justice in London, England
The Royal Courts of Justice in London, England - 
Listen To The Story


JEREMY HOBSON: In Britain the prenuptial agreement has been mostly ignored -- until today. Britain's Supreme Court has validated to the pre-nup for the first time. As the BBC's Rebecca Singer reports, it stems from a divorce case.

REBECCA SINGER: She was a German heiress to a multi-million dollar fortune from her family's paper company. He was a French investment banker with JPMorgan. And when they married in London back in 1998 they signed a pre-nup stating that if the marriage hit the rocks, husband and wife would make no financial claim against the other.

But four years ago, when they filed for divorce, the English courts wouldn't accept the agreement and awarded him $9 million. Not willing to accept that she took the case to the highest court in the land, where today they ruled in her favor. The president of the Supreme Court, Lord Phillips said pre-nup agreements aren't normally binding in England but that --

LORD PHILLIPS: In this case the agreement was freely entered into and that both husband and wife fully appreciated its implications.

He still walks away with 1.5 million dollars -- and most of his debts will be paid off by his ex-wife. Today's ruling sets a precedent in Britain -- prenups can be enforced. However the courts can still choose to ignore a pre-nup -- if it's considered unfair to children from the marriage.

In London, I'm the BBC's Rebecca Singer for Marketplace.