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  • McCartney, Mills judgment in full
  • Herald Sun
  • 19/03/2008 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 27 articles in 2008 )
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Full judgment in the McCartney/Mills divorce case:

Mr Justice Bennett:

1. This final hearing concerns the application by Ms Heather Mills/Lady McCartney ("the wife") for financial provision against Sir Paul McCartney ("the husband").

2. The hearing took place over six days between 11 and 18 February 2008. The wife represented herself assisted, with my permission, by three Mckenzie Friends, namely her sister, Fiona Mills, Mr David Rosen, a solicitor-advocate, and Mr Michael Shilub, an American attorney. The husband was represented by Mr Nicholas Mostyn QC and Mr Timothy Bishop, instructed by Payne Hicks Beach.

3. The battle lines are set out in the open offer made by each party prior to the start of the final hearing. In her letter of 31 January 2008 the wife computes her reasonable needs for herself and Beatrice at 3,250,000 p.a. which amounts on a Duxbury capitalised basis to 99,480,000. She seeks a property adjustment order in respect of a property in Beverley Hills called "Heather House" and of a property in New York State, 11 Pintail. She seeks between 8m and 12.5m for a home in London, 3m to purchase a property in New York, 500,000 to 750,000 to purchase an office in Brighton, a transfer to her of a mortgage in favour of the husband over her sister's (Fiona) Hove property, transfer of property order re a Southampton property owned by the husband in which Sonya Mills lives, and relief in respect of chattels. Further, the wife asks the court "to place a significant monetary value on compensation for loss of earnings, contribution and conduct". She would retain her own properties at Pean's Wood in Robertsbridge, Sussex and at Angel's Rest in Hove. Overall her claim amounts to about 125m. She also seeks an order for costs.

4. By letter of 6 February 2008 Messrs Payne Hicks Beach set out the husband's position. Overall the wife should exit the proceedings with total assets of 15m (after a deduction for conduct) made up as follows. Sonya Mills' home and the mortgage on Fiona's home should be transferred to the wife at a combined value of 683,000; Angel's Rest (which has now been valued at 2m); the net value of Pean's Wood; the value of funds that either the wife has or should have; and a balancing lump sum provided certain art is returned to the husband. Further, the husband would meet the reasonable cost of security for the wife and for their child, Beatrice, for 2 years not exceeding 150,000 p.a. For Beatrice, the husband would pay periodical payments at 35,000 p.a. and for a nanny not to exceed 25,000 p.a. Both these figures would be index-linked. The periodical payments would continue until Beatrice is 17 years old or completes secondary education, whichever is the later. Further, he will discharge the school fees, uniform and reasonable extras, and health insurance premiums.

Proposals were made as to chattels. There would be no order as to costs.

5.Both parties made it clear that each wants a clean break both under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (as amended) and under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Defendants) Act 1975.

6.The barest outline of the background would be that the wife and the husband met in the spring of 1999, became engaged on 22 July 2001, married on 11 June 2002, separated on 29 April 2006 and ever since have been engaged in protracted matrimonial litigation. They have one child, Beatrice born on 28 October 2003 who is therefore now 4 years old.

7.No decree nisi has yet been pronounced, for the following reasons. On 17 July 2006 the husband filed a petition for divorce on the grounds of the wife's unreasonable behaviour. On 13 October 2006 the wife filed an Answer denying the husband's allegation of unreasonable behaviour and cross-praying for divorce on the grounds of the husband's unreasonable behaviour. On 28 February 2007 the suit, the ancillary relief proceedings and an application by the wife for maintenance pending suit came before me. I shall return to this hearing later in the judgment. Suffice it to say for the moment that at my prompting the parties agreed to stay their divorce proceedings and on or after 1 May 2008, by which time would have been separated for 2 years, to one party presenting a fresh petition for divorce based on the 2 years separation and to the other consenting to a divorce. So, at a hearing arranged for 12 May I hope to be able to pronounce a decree nisi of divorce.

8.The husband's case on financial provision for the wife is summarised at paragraph 9 of the opening note of Mr Mostyn QC as follows:

"We submit that fundamentally this is a straightforward case. Because of H's enormous pre-marital wealth and because of the brief duration of this marriage W's claim should be determined by reference to the principle of need alone. This is not a case where the principle of sharing of the "marital acquest" is engaged at all. Nor is it a case where the principle of compensation will arise. W's needs fall to be fairly assessed, not predominantly by reference to the standard of living during the marriage. W's award should be reduced to reflect her post-separation misconduct. That misconduct is based on three distinct episodes as explained in our Conduct Note."

9.The wife's case cannot be so succinctly summarised. By the time of the parties' first meeting in May of 1999 the wife says that she was wealthy and independent with, as she told me in evidence, properties and cash totalling between 2m and 3m. She earned her living as a TV presenter, a model and public speaker. She began to cohabit with the husband from March 2000 which led seamlessly into marriage and thus the relationship lasted 6 years. This is denied by the husband. The wife says that the husband's attitude towards her career was one of constriction such that the opportunities for the development of her career fell away during their relationship. He dictated what she could or could not do. She thus seeks compensation for the loss of her career opportunity in that during their cohabitation and subsequent marriage she forewent a lucrative and successful career. She seeks an award commensurate with being the wife of, and the mother of the child of, an icon. She places great weight on the contributions she says she has made to counselling the husband's children by his former marriage and to the husband's professional career. She asserts that his assets are worth in excess of 800m and that she is entitled to share in the "marital acquest". Finally, she asserts that throughout their marriage and after their separation the husband behaved in such a way that it would be inequitable to disregard and that his conduct should be reflected in the award.

10.During the course of this judgment I shall have to determine certain matters of fact.

11.The major factual issues as to the history of their relationship that I must determine are these. First, at the time the parties met, was the wife a wealthy and independent person? This is linked to the third issue. Second, did the parties cohabit from March 2000 or from the date of the marriage? The relevance of this issue is to the length of their relationship and to the further issue of "marital acquest". Third, did the husband constrict the wife's career after cohabitation (whether at March 2000 or June 2002)? This is relevant to the issue of "compensation" for an allegedly lost or restricted career of the wife.

12.I shall also have to determine issues of fact concerning the husband's and the wife's assets, the wife's proposed income needs, the wife's expenditure between October 2006 and December 2007, and the wife's earning capacity.

13.Many of the issues of fact involve a head on conflict between the evidence of the wife and the husband, in which I shall also have to examine the relevant and important documents. It is therefore appropriate that I should briefly say something at this stage about the evidence of each of the parties.

14.The wife is a strong willed and determined personality. She has shown great fortitude in the face of, and overcoming, her disability. I refer to the loss of her left leg below the knee. As I shall show she is a kindly person and is devoted to her charitable causes. She has conducted her own case before me with a steely, yet courteous, determination.

15.The husband's evidence was, in my judgment, balanced. He expressed himself moderately though at times with justifiable irritation, if not anger. He was consistent, accurate and honest.

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