Love Turns Sour and Divorce Can Be Costly; Following Britain's Biggest Divorce Settlement, Kevin Harris James, Head of Family Law at the Birmingham Offices of Law Firm Irwin Mitchell, Looks at the Current Divorce Landscape

The Birmingham Post (England), August 7, 2006 | Go to article overview

Love Turns Sour and Divorce Can Be Costly; Following Britain's Biggest Divorce Settlement, Kevin Harris James, Head of Family Law at the Birmingham Offices of Law Firm Irwin Mitchell, Looks at the Current Divorce Landscape


Byline: Kevin Harris James

Henry VIII changed religion to get divorced at a time when divorce settlements were unknown. Were he around today, I'm sure he wouldn't be so keen, given the extraordinary cost to a man of such wealth and means.

Sir Paul McCartney cannot rely upon change of religion, constitution or otherwise to avoid the divorce settlement that is heading his way.

The McCartney marital 'pot' is estimated at about pounds 825 million, the majority of which is exclusive to Macca, arising from his lifetime's contribution to music prior to the relationship.

Lady Heather played no part in the acquisition of this wealth. Nevertheless it's against this fortune that she seeks fair recompense on separation.

How can 'fairness' be measured against such riches? The recent House of Lords' decision of Miller offers guidance, given the McCartney marriage is, in real terms, a short one of about five years.

Miller talks of fairness in terms of 'marital acquest' - that is, the extent to which wealth increased during the course of the marriage.

I now enter into speculation, but assuming The Sunday Times Rich List is correct, in 2000/01 (the year of marriage) Sir Paul was thought to be worth pounds 725 million and in 2005/6 he is estimated to be worth pounds 825 million (the year of separa-tion) - an increase of pounds 100 million.

Melissa Miller was awarded the equivalent of one-third (pounds 5 million) of the matrimonial acquest, taken to be some pounds 15 million, which was deemed 'fair'.

One-third of the McCartney acquest would be circa pounds 33 million, perhaps explaining the alleged opening stance of Sir Paul and his lawyer of pounds 30 million.

Miller is not so clear cut, however, when one considers judicial speak such as "sharing equally in the fruits of the relationship" and marriage being "a partnership of equals".

Miller was a short, childless marriage. The McCartneys' is a short marriage with a young child. And what price the title 'Lady' Heather? Diana insisted upon retaining her title when she and Prince Charles divorced.

We have, in summary, a short marriage, a dependent child, pre-marital wealth, marital acquest, titles of the realm. You can begin to see why Lady Heather and her lawyer might think that there may be more in it than a third split of the acquest.

I suspect that Sir Paul - who issued a petition before the Principal Registry, citing inflammatory allegations of unreasonable behaviour on the part of Lady Heather, laying blame for the marriage breakdown firmly at her door - and his lawyer have a lot to cope with.

Many in the UK, including Sir Paul, must have taken a sharp intake of breath at the Charman settlement last week.

In what is reckoned to be the biggest divorce award in British legal history, insurance magnate John Charman was ordered to pay his ex-wife Beverley pounds 48 million.

The Charmans, who have two children, married in 1976, when neither had many assets to speak of. Since then, Mr Charman's highly successful career in the insurance industry generated assets worth over pounds 131 m, including trusts.

He moved to Bermuda in 2003 and separated from his wife, who instigated divorce proceedings in England in 2004. …

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Love Turns Sour and Divorce Can Be Costly; Following Britain's Biggest Divorce Settlement, Kevin Harris James, Head of Family Law at the Birmingham Offices of Law Firm Irwin Mitchell, Looks at the Current Divorce Landscape
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