Saturday 17 March 2018

Divorce payouts: Love is not all you need

DIVORCED: Paul McCartney and Heather Mills
DIVORCED: Paul McCartney and Heather Mills

When Ireland introduced divorce after a bitter 1995 referendum, infamous for the slogan "Hello Divorce - Bye Bye Daddy", it ushered in an era where unhappy couples trapped in loveless marriages could finally set about parting ways for good.

But it also heralded the arrival of new financial disputes, with couples now spending thousands in legal fees. Emotions can run so high that it is not unknown for disgruntled spouses to tip off the Revenue Commissioners about where their former partner is keeping an undeclared asset or source of income.

While settlements in Irish courts can run into the millions, these sums are just pocket money for the estranged spouses of celebrities and the world's wealthy elite. One of the biggest battles for money in recent years was heard in an English divorce court, which in November made the wife of a London financier instantly wealthier than Queen Elizabeth II when it awarded her a settlement of £337m (€473m).

Sir Chris Hohn, best known in Ireland for his ultimately failed attempt to gain control of the Blackrock Clinic, and his former wife, Jamie Cooper-Hohn, had fought over their share of a £1bn fortune in the High Court in London. She had sought half of his wealth, but Hohn had only wanted to give her a quarter.

Fifteen years ago, Michael Douglas's first wife Diandra (above) walked away with about $45m (€42m) after 23 years of marriage. It was a particularly bitter split, which included allegations that the actor was a sex addict who regularly cheated on his wife. Diandra came back for a second bite of the cherry a few years ago, after the 2010 release of the Wall Street sequel, Money Never Sleeps, but she wasn't successful. Small wonder that when Douglas married Catherine Zeta-Jones in 2000 they signed a pre-nuptial agreement.

The wife is not always the one on the receiving end of a pay-out. A year after selling for an estimated €30m in 2006, former Dragons' Den star Sarah Newman was ordered by the High Court to pay €2.1m to former husband Patrick O'Donohoe, from whom she separated in 2000. Newman became engaged to marry DJ Carey (below), the Kilkenny hurling star, but the romance failed in 2012 amid further financial difficulty. Newman was forced to sell off a luxury Swiss chalet and the one-time couple's joint investments in property and business led to a judgment against them in the Commercial Court.

One of the most hostile divorces of all was between Paul McCartney and Heather Mills (middle), who married at Castle Leslie in Co Monaghan in 2002. Just six years later, by 2008, when the divorce was set in motion, Mills demanded £125m from the former Beatle and famously poured a glass of water over the head of Fiona Shackleton, McCartney's barrister. Mills was awarded £24.3m, which included expenses for their daughter, Beatrice, until she turned 18.

Irish Independent

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