Fri, Oct 17, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Madonna, Ritchie end speculation and confirm divorce

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Guy Ritchie and Madonna ended months of speculation on Wednesday by confirming that their eight-year marriage had come to an end. Leading lawyers predicted Ritchie would gain far less than half of the singer’s estimated £300 million (US$514.5 million) fortune.

News of the couple’s divorce was greeted with little surprise. Rather like the implosion of the Icelandic financial system, it was something that those who keep an eye on such things had seen coming for some time.

The only shock seemed to be that the marriage had lasted so long. When Madonna first stepped out with Ritchie in 1998 there was much discussion of how a relationship between pop’s biggest control freak and a little-known British film director 10 years her junior could last. And even after the pair had their son, Rocco, and got married, there were perennial whispers that all was not well in any of their many houses.

In June it was reported the singer had consulted Paul McCartney’s divorce lawyer, Fiona Shackleton. But just weeks ago, the couple made a public show of affection at the premiere of Ritchie’s film, RocknRolla, in Leicester Square in London.

Madonna’s spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg, said the couple expected to agree a divorce settlement without going through the courts. Ritchie, a mildly successful film director with far less earning power than his wife, is expected to walk out of the marriage with a fraction of her fortune.

“It is absolute nonsense to suggest that Guy Ritchie could get half of Madonna’s wealth,” said Andrew Newbury, a partner in family law at Pannone. “Around 90 percent of couples never get as far as a court hearing, but if Madonna and Guy Ritchie do, the court will look at what each was worth when they married and at the wealth they have built up during their marriage, which is what will be taken into account.”

Margaret Hatwood, a collaborative family lawyer from Thomas Eggar, said: “One of the significant things here is that a lot of Madonna’s wealth was built up before the marriage. I don’t think Guy Ritchie will benefit greatly from that.”

Both lawyers agreed that the settlement won by Heather Mills McCartney earlier this year after her divorce from Paul McCartney was likely to be significant. The £24.3 million she was awarded was a tiny slice of his estimated £825 million fortune.

“In some cases, one party can claim a sort of career prejudice,” said Hatwood, citing the example of Julia McFarlane, who gave up a high-flying legal job to become a stay-at-home mother and was awarded alimony of £250,000 a year in 2006 for the rest of her life in recognition of her contribution to her husband’s career. “But arguably Guy Ritchie’s career has been enhanced by his marriage to Madonna, rather like Heather Mills McCartney benefited from being married to a Beatle.”

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