In the wake of news that Brangelina will be no more, we can expect to see a number of likely issues debated in the press. Celebrity divorces often raise the same questions; but not all of those are exclusive to celebrity cases.
Is there a pre-nup? Many celebrity couples have pre-nups, usually to protect their wealth. These days more and more relatively ordinary couples also have them. The pre-nups will typically provide a formula to regulate how the couples’ finances will be divided upon divorce. If both husband and wife are wealthy the pre-nup may well provide for their wealth accumulated during the marriage to be either divided equally between them or simply that each keeps what they have.
In the absence of a pre-nup the couple are faced with the prospect of their financial affairs being brought out in open court. Curiously, although many celebrity pairings start their divorce in the full glare of publicity, rarely, if ever, do any of them want to risk a full court hearing where the world will discover either how wealthy they are – or at the other end of the spectrum that their wealth is all an illusion and they are much poorer than they want the world to believe.
More complicated will be the matter of the children. Although earlier press reports suggest the existence of a pre-nup that would give Angelina custody of the children in the event that Brad entered into a relationship with another woman during the marriage, the reality is that a pre-nup under Californian law cannot determine what the custody arrangements are to be in the event of a separation in the future. This is similar to the law in the UK, which requires decisions on custody to be determined having regard to what is in the best interests of the children at the time of the parents’ separation, rather than by what has been agreed in an earlier contract between the parents.
Another complication can arise through A-list couples having homes in several different countries. Brad and Angelina are no different, having moved to Surrey earlier this year while maintaining their home in LA. Having homes in different countries can raise many issues of international family law. Different countries have different laws relating to: grounds for divorce; jurisdiction (authority) to hear a divorce; childcare arrangements; and the financial aspects of divorce. With a bit of planning, a divorcing spouse can ensure that any divorce is heard in the country that is to their advantage, whether that advantage is in relation to the children or the finances.
Finally there is the issue of publicity. From a family lawyer’s perspective, the best celebrity divorce clients are the ones who resolve their issues in private with the divorce becoming public knowledge later on. Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow are however in the minority. It is a fact of life that publicity goes hand in hand with many celebrity divorces. Reputation management is another consideration that we need to be aware of in any divorce involving public figures. Practically every A-list divorce settlement will include a confidentiality clause, to keep the terms of the settlement private and out with the reaches of the press who were do avidly courted when the divorce action was first raised,