21 June, 2016
We all like reading about celebrity divorces, not least because of the large amount of noughts after the value of their assets. We like to read about their properties, multi-million pound apartments in London, Los Angeles, New York, not to mention the costs of running their households with nannies, personal assistants, etc. It all seems to be a completely different world.
The marriage breakup however, is the same, regardless of which country you live in or how famous you are. It causes not only the couple a huge amount of upset and distress but there is also the ripple effect it has on their family, friends, children etc.
In the recent case of Mr Depp and Ms Heard it has come to light that there was no prenuptial agreement between them. It is true that to discuss a prenuptial agreement may be seen by some as being very unromantic, but I would have thought that Mr Depp's financial advisors, managers etc., would have urged him in the strongest terms to enter into a prenuptial agreement for precisely this reason. He is said to be worth in the region of $400 million.
There seems to be a suggestion that recently in England, the wife does well out of a divorce settlement, but given the length of the marriage and the fact that there are no children in this relationship, it would probably result in Mr Depp getting quite a decent and fair settlement.
In the fairly recent case of Miller and Miller, this was heard in an English Court, and the couple had been married for 3 years, again with no children of the relationship and the husband had assets worth approximately £17 million. The wife in that particular case was awarded £5 million pounds in settlement, but a distinguishing factor was that in that case the wife did not work throughout the marriage, unlike Amber Heard.
Similarly, in the recent marriage breakup between Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and her husband Jean-Bernard, they to do not appear to have had a prenuptial agreement. They too were only married for a relatively short period of time, 18 months, and they too, do not have any children of their relationship.
Couples taking steps towards making this type of agreement are put off by the perception that it is not the most romantic of gestures, and that at the moment, there is no guarantee that the court would uphold that agreement.
However, the pre-nup's popularity amongst celebrity couples and the apparent movement forward by the courts to give weight to these types of agreement (providing certain criteria are met), has resulted in more people taking the step, regardless of the extent of their wealth. Over 40% of marriages end in divorce and so pre-nups are becoming more popular between partners who in particular have built up sizeable assets, and are perhaps on their second or third marriages.
It is a common misconception that pre-nups are there for one party to make sure that their partner gets nothing. The courts would not uphold any agreement which provides for an unfair outcome. Both parties need to be involved and separately represented in the process of making an agreement.
My top tip - Do not leave it until the week before the wedding to "get a pre-nup"! You should take advice at least three months prior to the wedding as your partner will be expected to take independent legal advice. There are a number of formalities that need to be observed and my own experience is that the mention of a pre-nup is not itself the problem; it is how the process is tackled, and trying to reach an agreement at the 11th hour is never desirable. In any event, the Law Commission's proposals are apparently going to insist that the agreement should be completed and signed at least 28 days before the wedding.
In short, take advice at least several months prior to the wedding you have planned. That initial meeting will cost very little compared to the potential cost of an acrimonious divorce.