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should Paul McCartney have had a pre-nup?

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I’m sure most of you non-Brits have heard of Paul McCartney. It’s also probably common knowledge that he’s in the process of finalising his divorce from his second wife, Heather Mills.

Much has been made here of her claims to a substantial sum of money, and she has eventually been awarded £24 million (plus child support). A conservative estimate would give him a fortune  more than 15 times this figure, most of which he almost certainly accumulated before meeting Heather Mills.

I read something somewhere, either on another blog, or a forum post expressing surprise (and some disbelief) that McCartney didn’t have a pre-nuptial agreement. The lack of a pre-nup didn’t surprise me at all - they aren’t legally enforceable in the UK.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t have one, and it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. In a divorce case the ruling judge is likely to take any pre-nuptial agreement into account as a statement of what the couple intended to happen in the event of a divorce.

If the couple’s relative financial circumstances have changed little since then, it’s presumably likely that the provisions in the pre-nup will be followed. On the other hand, if things have changed for the couple, and the current state of affairs wasn’t covered by the pre-nup, I imagine there’s less chance that it will be followed strictly. In either case, the judge has the freedom to ignore the pre-nup if appropriate.

There are some calls to make pre-nups legally enforceable, but as things stand, if you want one you should be aware that in the UK at least just because you’ve written one doesn’t mean that it will happen. Given the way the Mills and McCarney saga has gone, I don’t think it would have been any less painful and drawn out if there had been a pre-nuptial agreement anyway.

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11 comments for “should Paul McCartney have had a pre-nup?”

  1. I wouldn’t be surprised if the people who want to make them binding are the ones who’ve accumulated a lot more since their prenup and fear an equitable distribution.

    Though like you I’ve heard enough gossip that I doubt this one would have worked out better. Most divorces are by nature messy.

    Posted by Mrs. Micah | March 18, 2008, 2:05 pm
  2. @Mrs. Micah:
    I imagine that’s the case. One of the interesting things about a pre-nup not being legally enforceable is that judges are likely to dismiss them if one or both parties didn’t fully disclose their financial state at the time it was signed. Full financial disclosure is a healthy thing all round, so I take that as a positive.

    Posted by plonkee | March 18, 2008, 8:13 pm
  3. Hmm, that’s an interesting difference in US and UK law. Divorce does tend to be messy regardless.

    Posted by E.C. | March 18, 2008, 10:43 pm
  4. He’s a dummy. His wife dies, a year later he remarries, and doesn’t have a prenup on some $1.6 billion dollars.

    No matter what she actually “deserves”, he “deserves” to be be taken to the cleaners.

    Posted by David | March 19, 2008, 12:07 am
  5. For someone that has over a billion dollars. It fits the old joke.

    “Why are divorces so expensive?”

    “Because they’re WORTH IT”

    Seriously, he’s never going to miss the ~$50 Mil.

    Posted by Randall at CreditWithdrawal | March 19, 2008, 12:45 am
  6. @David:
    Even if he’d had a pre-nup she still could have taken him to the cleaners. They can’t be enforced in the courts. It probably would have been a good idea, but given the way it went anyway, it still would have ended up in the High Courts, and she probably would have had the same settlement.

    Posted by plonkee | March 19, 2008, 10:42 am
  7. After being married to his first wife for so long, I imagine it would have been difficult to successfully remarry anybody only one year after her death.

    Interesting tidbits from Wikipedia:

    “The settlement equates to about £17,000 ($34,500) for each day of McCartney’s marriage to Mills. After the divorce ruling, Justice Bennett said that throughout the case Mills was ‘inconsistent, inaccurate and less than candid’ while McCartney was ‘honest.’”

    Posted by Debt Reduction Formula | March 20, 2008, 4:05 pm
  8. Here at least (Hawai’i), prenuptial agreements aren’t necessarily honored by the presiding family court judges; they might, they might not, so it’s not clear if it’s worth having one.

    Posted by Ryan S. @ Uncommon-Cents.net | March 22, 2008, 7:39 pm
  9. This is a great topic and I can see how it can go both ways. I just view it as this, when you want to get married and you say you want a pre-nup, I think the SO will start to think that maybe you may see a future where you could leave. Isn’t a marriage meant to be forever??

    Posted by Tom | March 24, 2008, 1:04 am

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