London: 'divorce capital of Europe'?

16th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

In a new series of lectures, a top British lawyer argues that the system of compensation for divorcees in Britain is seriously flawed.

London -- London has become the "divorce capital of Europe," where celebrities' and footballers' wives feel they can make a mint after only a few years of marriage, a top British lawyer said Tuesday.

But the trend is paternalistic and sends the wrong message to women, said Baroness Ruth Deech, head of the Bar Standards Board, which promotes best practice in the legal profession.

High-profile divorce settlements reached in London recently include that of Beatles legend Paul McCartney and Heather Mills -- she walked away with 24.3 million pounds (27.5 million euros, 40 million dollars) of his 400 million pound fortune.

"The message we are getting at the moment is mixed -- on the one hand we're told women should take 50 percent of top jobs and earn as much as men," Deech told BBC radio.

"But trot down the road to the law courts and there you'll find a woman with maybe no particular qualifications, married for a short time to a celebrity of some sort, will walk away with many, many millions," she added.

And she said: "The message that's going out is marry a footballer, marry a banker, stick it out for a few years and your lifestyle will always be on that level, a woman is a kept woman."

Top divorce lawyer Vanessa Lloyd Platt defended the way cases involving wealthy partners are handled. "Women will have to give up careers to look after children, and they must be properly compensated," she told BBC radio.

She acknowledged that every case was different, and that long marriages were different from short marriages, but said judges should use a 50:50 share-out as the starting point for settlements.

"I believe the starting point should be 50-50," she said, but added: "We do recognise that in the short marriage cases they should not be compensated in the same way as the longer marriages."

But Deech said the reality was that large settlements were being reached even in short marriages without children -- and is making her cases in a series of lectures starting this week, according to The Times.

"The notion that a wife should get half of the joint assets of a couple after even a short, childless marriage has crept up on us without any parliamentary legislation to this effect," she was cited as saying.

"It is no wonder that England is the divorce capital of Europe and out of step with other European countries," added Deech.

Other recent big-money splits include Madonna and British director husband Guy Ritchie -- although they denied a report that she paid him up to 60 million pounds after they divorced last November.


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