'BRANGELINA' and conscious uncoupling if they were living in England in Wales

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'BRANGELINA' and conscious uncoupling if they were living in England in Wales

View profile for Beverley Watkins
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Everyone seems to be talking about the news that Angelina and Brad have separated. The divorce has been filed in the USA and therefore the law is somewhat different to that in England and Wales. Angelina has apparently filed for divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences”. In England and Wales it is not possible to ask for a divorce just because you no longer get on with your spouse.

In England and Wales the Petitioner can say “the marriage has broken down irretrievably” but then must cite one of five facts to support the fact that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The most common “facts” are unreasonable behaviour, two years’ separation with both parties’ consent or adultery. If the Petitioner, in this case Angelina, proceeds citing unreasonable behaviour they must state that the Respondent has acted in such a way that the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent. Even then, the Petition must provide some examples and detail of the unreasonable behaviour. Simply saying that the Respondent “has persistently and consistently refused to mow the lawn” is unlikely to be sufficient grounds to obtain a divorce in England and Wales.

Perhaps some of the surprise surrounding the Brad and Angelina breakdown is that they only married two years ago. In England and Wales when the Court decides on financial matters, where there has been a long period of co-habitation prior to marriage this will usually be taken into account. In the case of Angelina and Brad their 9 years cohabitation prior to marriage as well as the 2 years of marriage would also be taken into account when deciding on financial matters.

When deciding financial matters in England and Wales often there is not quite enough money to go around and it is the “needs of the parties” which the Court will have to consider. In the Brad and Angelina case, whatever law is applicable in the USA, it is unlikely that this will be a “needs case” as they clearly have enough money to cover their basic housing needs.

Angelina has made it known that she is not applying for spousal maintenance! Given her millions she would struggle to make a case for maintenance in this country!

What is not known is if Angelina and Brad had a ‘pre-nuptial’ agreement – this is more common in USA than in this country and the law is different as to the effect of any such agreement. Here, if a pre-nuptial agreement is signed, it may be a factor to be taken into account if both parties have provided full disclosure of their assets and both received independent legal advice.

It appears that the main issue of dispute between Brad and Angelina is likely to be the children. If the news reports are true, Angelina has asked that the children live with her and Brad have contact. This perhaps is somewhat surprising given the way the couple to date have apparently “co-parented” all six children.

In England and Wales now it is quite usual for the Courts to make Orders that the children live with both parents. It has been some time since the Courts referred to “custody” (although this appears to have escaped the notice of the programme makers of the Archers) . One difficulty which might arise, although it very much depends on what the law is in the USA, is that both Angelina and Brad seem to have several homes around the world and might wish to take the children outside of the USA for visits. In England and Wales, if a parent wishes to take a child abroad for a holiday and there is no Court Order as to where they should live then both parents with Parental Responsibility should consent. If the consent is not forthcoming, then an application to Court will need to be made. What this means is that if Angelina and Brad were living in the UK every time Angelina wished to take the children to Cannes, she may need to make an application to Court if Brad did not consent!

The law in USA is different to that in England and Wales with different principles applying and when two multi-millionaires divorce they have somewhat of a ‘cushion’ that others do not.