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Are pre-nups a Mission Impossible in celebrity divorce?

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It seems like the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes divorce publicity blaze burned very brightly and then was suddenly gone. Just over a week after the divorce papers were filed, the couple reportedly reached and signed a settlement. The disappointed media have sloped off looking for the next celebrity relationship to explode.

So is that the entire process done? Are they now divorced and ready to start their new lives free from the acrimony common to divorce cases? Do they really get a “quickie” divorce because they are famous Hollywood stars? It seems unlikely when you consider that the couple have apparently been able to almost immediately reach an agreement over more than $275 million! Is this the best pre-nup of all time?

Whatever our own views on this celebratory pair, they have publicly stated that they are working together in their daughter's best interests and have expressed support for each other's roles as parents. This is a very good message to send out. However, their divorce will still take the same time as anyone else's. The process is the same regardless of who seeks the divorce, but Tom-Kat will hopefully avoid the emotional upheaval of a drawn-out legal battle and the costs involved in the latter, both financially and emotionally. With a quicker start to their new lives as divorced singles, this “as quick as possible” settlement may give them the happiness they seek rather than leaving one of them up Dawson's Creek without a paddle.

There is speculation over the prenuptial agreement the couple purportedly signed, and whether Katie Holmes will accept its terms or contest it. Prenuptial agreements are more commonplace in America than here, and the courts of England and Wales may not always accept their validity and the contents of the agreement in its entirety if later contested by one of the parties in a divorce.

That said, a correctly prepared pre-nup, drawn up by an experienced family solicitor, can certainly help a couple whose marriage does not succeed in focusing on what their intentions were at the outset, when looking to settle matters at the time of their separation. This may not always accurately reflect what they each expected that future position to be though and this is where contests may begin.

On the basis that it has been reported Katie Holmes will receive around $3 million a year in child maintenance payments, it is difficult to see any parallel to our own lives or the need to concern oneself with her potentially receiving a mere $50-100 million in capital assets.

Of course, this is US law and not the family law as it affects England and Wales, but, with the right attitude and advice, couples with a pre-nup should be able to reach a quicker settlement in principle which could then be presented in the proceedings at the appropriate time, allowing them to get on with starting their 'new life' straight away. Divorce has no winners, but settling matters between yourselves or with the aid of lawyers focused on assisting you in a conciliatory way certainly limits your losses.

Kimberley Bailey
Family solicitor, Bristol

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