We have tried over the past few years to dispel some of the most common myths surrounding marriage, divorce and separation. We have produced a book on this topic, founded a website, regularly Tweet about it and cover some of the most common topics on occasion through this blog. However, an item that was running in the news last week (Guru to the stars in Court over common law divorce) illustrates why we have to keep plugging away on this and why our work is likely to never be truly complete.
Dragana Brown never married the father of their 16-year-old son, Simon Brown, a self-styled lifestyle guru living in London whose clients include Boy George and Alicia Silverstone. She was told that she would be looked after if they ever broke up because she was entitled to half of his assets as they had been together so long she qualified as his “commonlaw wife”. Now, after a parting of the ways (thought they still live amicably in a shared flat) he is disputing her High Court claim to a share of his wealth, which includes royalties from two books and a collection of Jaguar cars.
Here’s the news: there is no such thing as commonlaw husband or wife. It is a myth in this country and entitles a partner to nothing in itself. That does not necessarily mean she will get nothing. As partners since 1994, it is likely they will have some joint purchases that will be split between them and perhaps money to support their child, but in terms of having a claim on Mr Brown’s wealth, I am not sure the case holds much water. If she was to win some concessions, it would set a precedent for thousands of cohabiting couples across the UK. It is only marriage than brings with it certain legal entitlements, or a living together agreement, which more and more unmarried couples are investing in.
What this case also highlights is the value of expert advice. Not taking your mate’s word for it, or the experiences of your grandmother, but getting actual, professional input from a specialist in the field. As we continue to ride out the worst recession in living memory, more and more people want to cut theirs costs and so are cutting corners. Advice from a divorce lawyer might be one of the corners people choose to cut – but it can cost dearly in the long run as Ms Brown is finding out.
Though this case is very sad, the best thing that may come from it is that more people will hear about the fact there is no such thing as commonlaw wife and so avoid being caught out if things go sour.