This week we're all talking about...Macca v Mucca
13 February 2008
This week, today and yesterday, all of Sir Paul McCartney’s troubles seemed so far away and now it looks as though they are here to stay…
Perhaps it is a strange twist of fate or maybe the listings clerk in the High Court’s family division has a warped sense of humour, but two of the year’s biggest divorce cases were due to be heard in the same week as Valentine's Day.
The biggest divorce case of the Century is being heard in court 34 of the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ). The Macca/Mucca divorce settlement could end up being the largest in legal history, breaking the precedent setting Charman divorce settlement of £48m.
So it’s hardly surprising that the media spotlight has been firmly on the RCJ.
Journalists, already struggling to get any relevant and reliable any information- other than what Mucca is wearing today - were dealt a fresh blow when Mr Justice Bennett (who is presiding over the case) slapped a gagging order on the hearing prohibiting either side from talking about it.
So unfortunately this is all we know: on Monday Mucca and Macca wore matching suits to court; she represented herself, he was represented by Nicholas Mostyn QC of One Hare Court and and Payne Hicks Beach partner Fiona Shackleton. The hearing is expected to last for five days.
The rest is hype: Macca is thought to be rejecting any claims that he is worth £800m, thereby forcing Mucca to accept a reduced settlement; Mucca is believed to be after between £10m and £80m; a deal could see Mucca receive £55m made up of a lump sum of £20m and annual £2.5m until their child turns 18.
Any deal would see Macca paying Mucca’s legal fees to her former law firm Mishcon de Reya. Mucca and Mishcon have fallen out and the firm is thought to be pursuing her for £2m in fees - which could go some way towards explaining why she is representing herself. (Remember last week’s lesson about keeping clients on side? It works the other way round in some cases too.)
The media spotlight was, however, momentarily lifted from Mucca by Susan Crossley yesterday (Wednesday). Now on her fourth failed marriage from another millionaire, Susan Crossley attempted to force up her estranged husband's offshore bank accounts. The hearing would've end up setting a precedent for all other big money divorce cases - even Charman in retrospect. But Mrs Crossley withdrew her claims at the eleventh hour and the case was dropped.
Mrs Crossley’s lawyer, Raymond Tooth of Sears Tooth, was preparing to argue that her estranged husband Stuart Crossley failed to disclose his full wealth when they signed their prenuptial agreement.
As such, she believed she was entitled to a larger portion of his wealth in the divorce settlement than she was originally awarded.
The Crossley case would've had massive implications for all big money divorce cases as it would've clarified the validity of prenuptial agreements signed in the UK.
It would've also reflected how far UK court orders can reach into foreign jurisdictions. It is believed that the Charmans were waiting the outcome of the Crossley case as it would've had particular consequences for their divorce.
John Charman was ordered to pay his wife Beverly Charman £48m by the Court of Appeal in May 2007, the largest divorce payment in legal history.
John Charman is believed to be holding onto his money and his ex-wife has instructed her lawyer, Manches partner Helen Ward, to enforce the order in Bermuda. It is understood the Charman dispute centres around a single Bermudian trust fund.
Money, love and heartache are a strange mix.
While these high profile cases are ongoing, spare a thought for your average divorce lawyer who is probably in the middle of his/her busiest period- more people get divorced after Christmas than at any other time of the year.
Someone once said all is fair in love and war, perhaps that should be replaced with all is fair in love and law…