The Price of Love

The highly publicised divorce case between Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills raised a very emotional and ‘touchy’ subject. That of fund and asset distribution following a divorce, especially where there has been such a huge differential in the amount that each had initially brought to the marriage. Surely this is a strong case for legalising and rigorously enforcing the pre-nuptial agreement in the United Kingdom. Many commentators gasped in amazement when they heard that Sir Paul and Ms. Mills did not have a pre nuptial agreement, but they should have known that such a document is not worth the paper it’s printed on in Britain. As an example, a woman may have been married for fifteen years before her husband’s death. During that time they had been shrewd enough to accumulate a savings nest egg and had protected their mortgage to be covered in the event of either surviving the other. Let’s say, in total, £250,000. Then, say six years later she remarries a man who has nothing. His home is on a 100% mortgage with no profit coming from its subsequent sale, has credit card debt, doesn’t own a car and he has little or no savings. From the minute he puts the wedding ring on her finger they are both legally entitled to half of everything the other owns. After only four years of marriage they divorce, for whatever reason: adultery, incompatibility: the reason for the split is immaterial. Financially it shouldn’t matter. Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to calculate the imbalance in this little scenario. Some might say that this is cynical and that such a relationship must be doomed from the outset because a pre-nup, by its very nature, anticipates the outcome of failure. Yet had one existed in law, then all of those years when she and her late husband had saved so hard would have been protected. I know just how devastating this can be. One is left feeling embarrassed, used and angry at oneself for being so gullible. Others might say that one gets what one deserves yet sometimes, especially when one is vulnerable, say following the bereavement of a partner, it’s not always easy to be as logical or objective as one should like. That’s where an agreement drawn up in law and used as standard practice in every marriage would surely protect the interests of everyone: especially where the protection of children’s inheritance is concerned. I’m generally not in favour of the adoption of all things American yet I’ve always thought that they did get this one right.

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