A Church of England Bishop has warned that pre-nuptial agreements and multi-million pound celebrity divorces cheapen the institution of marriage. The Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, said sacred commitments between husband and wife were being reduced to little more than "balance sheets".
He warned that the rise in "pre-nups", while good news for lawyers, risked putting a price on the failure of a couple's love. The bishop’s remarks came as the UK Supreme Court prepared to release its judgment in a landmark divorce case in which Katrin Radmacher, one of Germany's richest women, is fighting to protect her £100 million inheritance. After seven months of deliberation, the Court is due to rule on how much Miss Radmacher should pay Nicolas Granatino, the father of her two children, after taking into account the couple's prenuptial contract.
British Ministers have said they will wait for the result of the case, and a review by the Law Commission, before drawing up plans to clarify the legal standing of prenuptial agreements. Such contracts are not currently binding in law but a judge can take an agreement into account when settling a case. Speaking in a House of Lords debate, Bishop Reade condemned the growing trend for contracts that set out the limits of divorce settlements before couples have even married.
"Such settlements, no doubt much loved by legal and financial professionals who profit from them, are in danger of reducing marriage to the economic bargaining of historic marriage contracts and of cheapening sacred commitments into balance sheets," he said.
"In a Christian understanding of marriage such prenuptials weaken and dilute our marriage vows of lifelong commitment, where sacrificial love forms the bedrock and the core.
These commitments, made before God and all those attending a Christian wedding service, look confidently towards a new, positive and progressive relationship in the unfolding history of human love. There is no suggestion here of an economic breakdown kit, poised for use if dreams fade or demands surmount expectations." He said celebrity divorce cases had valued the "failure" of love at between £7.5 million and £75 million.
Bishop Reade highlighted a series of recent celebrity cases, including that of an American rock star who paid £75.5 milion to his wife, and a "famous film director" who paid his former wife £50 million. "He was believed to retain a further £50 million for day-to-day necessities," Bishop Reade told peers. Bishop Reade called for greater attention to be given to preparing couples for marriage and providing better support for relationships in difficulties, rather than "ambulance-chasing after divorce settlements".
"If more attention was given to this area of our nation's life, we would not have to spend so much time debating what happens when relationships end, and our society would be stronger and more stable as a result," he said.