Celebrity divorces make titillating headlines, but look closer and they provide lessons, too, for couples headed for a divorce, say Tayside based solicitors and estate agents Miller Hendry.
The twists and turns of the Brangelina split, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s dramatic relationship meltdown, the reportedly ‘amicable’ end to Zoe Ball’s marriage, and the fascinating ‘conscious uncoupling’ of Gwyneth Paltrow and former husband Chris Martin, provide a few do’s and don’ts for anyone considering splitting up, says Richard Frenz of Miller Hendry.
Richard, Head of Court Department and a family law specialist, said:
“Everything is bigger in America and the world of celebrity, including divorce settlements and lawyers’ fees. But as rich and headline-hitting as Hollywood couples like Brad and Angelina are, they go through the same practical difficulties as the rest of us facing a marital breakdown. At the end of the day, it comes down to assets, children, and the willingness and cooperation – or not – of the parties involved.”
Here are Miller Hendry’s 4 celebrity-inspired divorce do’s and don’ts:
1. Simpler is better
On occasions, it can be difficult enough to disentangle personal assets on the break-up of a marriage. When personal assets are intertwined with business assets, as is the case with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and their combined properties, company interests and charities, there are even more difficulties. And that usually means more time, trouble and expense.
Accountants and tax advisors sometimes suggest involving your husband and wife in a business for possible tax benefits. The downside is that an asset which was not initially matrimonial becomes matrimonial, by virtue of some form of transfer by one to the other during the course of the marriage.
Disentangling joint business interests is likely to require not just a divorce lawyer but also a commercial lawyer or a conveyancer, an accountant, even a surveyor.
2. Put the kids first – even if that’s times six
Both Brad and Angelina have stated that their six children come above all else as they face a complicated, possibly nasty, divorce. And while more kids don’t necessarily make for legal complexity (custody arrangements are usually worked out for all children, not individuals), it certainly means more complex childcare arrangements.
For Brad and Angelina this is a contentious issue, with Angelina reportedly seeking residence through the courts and offering Brad only contact. Miller Hendry’s advice is for couples to work out the childcare arrangements between themselves, or with the help of professionals. If appropriate, sit down with the kids and talk through the arrangements. Remember: no child likes a change in their routine, especially one imposed by a parent. And stability and routine is a good thing at a time when their parents are separating.
3. Consider ‘conscious uncoupling’, the Gwyneth and Chris way
It may still be the butt of jokes, but actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her ex, musician Chris Martin, knew what they were doing when they ‘consciously uncoupled’. TV presenter Zoe Ball and her husband Norman Cook, who announced the end of their marriage over the weekend, look to be headed the same way. They say they are great friends and promise an ‘amicable split’. Doing it the friendly, respectful way is much the preferred option.
Couples should go to their solicitors in the first instance to get the basic legal framework for the impending separation or divorce. Solicitors will often advise parties to then go back and talk to each other to see how much they can agree on. A considered and agreed amicable settlement – in other words, the opposite of Johnny Depp’s and Amber Heard’s – is much better than one reached after a long period of negotiation or litigation, or one imposed by a judge.
4. Live apart, but not too far apart
Unconventional living arrangements seem to be in vogue for celebs whose marriages are on the rocks, and that’s largely for the sake of the children. Think Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner; he moved into a guest house on their property. Or Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton who called it quits two years ago; the actress and director have co-parented while living in two separate but adjoining houses in London. Zoe Ball and husband Norman Cook are said to want to continue living close to each other in the row of properties they own in Brighton.
For those of us with less money, property and space than celebrities, choosing to live a few streets apart or at least in the same town whilst co-parenting, is likely to be a huge plus for children, says Miller Hendry.
For further advice or information on property law or other legal issues, visit www.millerhendry.co.uk
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.