Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The McCartney Divorce

Having written a few times on the McCartney-Mills divorce (such as here), reporting on the final outcome seems a good idea. Yes, there are some things for us to learn from the case - even in Indiana. Take a look at OF RELEVANCE TO MERE MORTALS from Judith's Divorce Blog.

The Washington Post published Judge Portrays McCartney's Ex As 'Out of Control:

"In court papers released Tuesday over Mills's strenuous objections, Judge Hugh Bennett took a legal chainsaw to the former model's demands and arguments, including her assertion that she helped the former Beatle write his songs."


Bennett alluded to Mills's "bad press" in his ruling, saying, "She is entitled to feel that she has been ridiculed, even vilified." But, he said, "to some extent she is her own worst enemy. She has an explosive and volatile character." At other times, he concluded, she had "behaved in an erratic, out of control, and vengeful manner."

And right on cue, Mills dumped a jug of water over the head of McCartney's lawyer.

A word of warning: dump water on anyone in an Indiana court and expect a trip to jail for contempt of court. Definitely, not a way to persuade the judge that you deserve anything.

Speaking of the court's decision, I found a copy online starting with page 2 and going to page 3 (I could not find page one). McCartney divorce battle: The full judgement part 2 which according to this post on Pink Tape, Mills McCartney Award Announced - and Judgment published in full, was leaked rather than officially issued by the judge.

Marilyn Stowe's McCartney divorce: Lucky Heather Mills? contains some good advice for all contentious divorces:

"What was needed was a pragmatic, ego-free settlement. This could have been concluded a year and a half ago, and would have allowed both parties to walk away with a private, dignified deal. They should have negotiated a commercial settlement. Instead, each one sought victory at the expense and humiliation of the other. The result: a horrible, prolonged court battle."
From Family Lore follows up on Judith's Divorce Blog about the relevance of the case to divorces of non-Beatles:

...Well, quite relevant, actually, according to Resolution, which issued a media briefing last Thursday setting out a number of issues that they suggest are relevant to more ‘normal’ divorces:
  • Sorting out a financial settlement doesn't have to involve a "high-conflict court battle" - there are alternatives, such as mediation.
  • The case highlights the need for enforceable pre-nuptial agreements, "allowing people to take control of their own financial future rather than relying on the current lottery of divorce court hearings".
  • If one party brings assets into the marriage, this can be taken into account when deciding the financial settlement, especially if those assets are considerable, but the usual position is that "unequal contribution is only relevant where it would produce an unfair result if it were not considered".
  • The shortness of the marriage can also be relevant but, again, only "where it would produce an unfair result if it were not considered".
  • Mr Justice Bennett has indicated that he intends to make part of the settlement public due to the level of media interest in the case - we will discover exactly what tomorrow - but financial proceedings are normally conducted in private, which encourages negotiation.
In broad terms, the laws do not differ greatly between here and there, For the details, however, see my topical archives on property issues (see the link below).

The London Times kind of follows up on the issue of Mill's acting without counsel (she seems to have acted without a barrister but had a solicitor - Americans need to pay attention to that difference because it is a distinction between our system and theirs) that I wrote about in Advice on Doing Your Own Divorce with Was Heather Mills right to act for herself?. (Pink Tape wrote Handling your own divorce - who needs lawyers? in connection with the original London Times article and is worth reading for anyone wanting to do their own divorce).

From The London Times:

Mills ended up with what most lawyers regarded as the right figure (it was widely predicted) — even if a fraction of the £125 million she had claimed. But she lost in every other sense: each claim was systematically demolished by the judge as excessive, ridiculous or without justification and she emerged in his stinging judgment as a greedy fantasist, “less than candid” and “devoid of reality”.

There is a second point about the Mills DIY scenario. She was not entirely acting on her own. Her previous lawyers had done much of the legwork. And she had opposite her the dream divorce team of Nicholas Mostyn, QC, and Fiona Shackleton. They, with the judge, Mr Justice Bennett, will have bent over backwards to ensure all her points were made, that nothing was missed and that she understood the implications at every stage.

Finally, she had David Rosen, a high-street litigation solicitor from Edgware, north west London, who acted as her McKenzie Friend — someone who sits with a litigant in person and metaphorically holds their hand. Usually such “friends” are not lawyers but in this case, hers was. So Mills was not the average litigant in person.

Another article by Madeline Stowe asked What if Heather Mills had divorced abroad?. Indiana would have put one-half of the property acquired since marriage on the table. Then the argument would have started on whether or not there ought to be a deviation from the statutory presumption of a 50-50 split.

I am not so sure that the dislike of Heather Mills would have existed if this were not Sir Paul McCartney - the cute Beatle. (I do realize that sentence ignores all those Beatles fans who blame Paul for breaking up the band and who might think he got what he deserves.) With all that in mind, I offer the following from Divorce Solicitor: Heather Mills should buy a dog.

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