The Great Debate UK

English divorce law is recipe for financial strife


–The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own–

It’s hard to feel sympathy when millionaires divorce. But after some mega-payouts in recent English court cases, a review of the law is welcome. While marriage isn’t a business transaction, the wealthy in particular could benefit from being able to agree legally enforceable pre-nuptial agreements.

England’s divorce laws are a mess. That creates huge uncertainty as to the division of assets when couples separate. Unlike the formulaic divisions of continental Europe, a London divorce can seem like a crapshoot. That really matters when the numbers involved are huge.

To anyone in business and finance accustomed to dealing with big money and thick contracts, pre-nuptial agreements look like the obvious solution. But until recently, these had little force. That changed in October, when a dispute between German heiress Katrin Radmacher and her French ex-husband, a former banker, led to a Supreme Court ruling that pre-nups would be decisive so long as they were “fair”.