by Megan Bennie - Solicitor
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WHAT IF: When Crazy in Love Turns to Single Ladies!

by Megan Bennie - Solicitor

WHAT IF: Hollywood’s Favourite Couple Decided to Call it Quits?

Beyoncé and Jay Z have been all over the news in the past two weeks.  The couple’s surprise Instagram announcement that twins are on the way has renewed speculation about one of the most high-profile marriages in show business.

The couple has faced endless speculation – mostly around Jay Z’s alleged dalliances with other women – since their April 2008 wedding.  Rihanna, Rita Ora, Rachael Ray and even Gwyneth Paltrow, a good friend of the Carters, have all been romantically linked with the hip hop mogul.  Needless to say, these links are based on the most tenuous of evidence.  Even the latest baby news hasn’t halted speculation with words like “band aid babies” and “on the rocks” being thrown around.

We have no reason whatsoever to think Mr and Mrs Carter are anything other than happily married as they approach their 9th wedding anniversary this spring.  But what if they weren’t?  How would it play out if one of the biggest pairings in showbiz went their separate ways?

Formation

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The first thing Beyoncé would do is get her legal team together.  As a multi-platinum recording artist, she’s probably got a team of lawyers on speed dial.  However, a savvy business woman like Bey knows that you need the best people on board and therefore she’d be likely to get a divorce specialist involved from the very start.

We can’t emphasise how important it is to have a specialist family lawyer in your corner.  There are very few absolute certainties in family law: because each family is different, the courts work within general principles to tailor every decision they make to the facts of the family they’re dealing with.  You need someone experienced in the field to let you know how things might go before a judge and what you could be entitled to.

Partition

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Despite being two of the most famous people in the world, Jay and Bey have always been notoriously private as a couple.  They control their publicity and social media feeds with military precision.  We doubt it would be any different if they were going through a relationship breakdown.

Every day seems to see another super rich couple battling it out in the divorce courts.  However, the reality is that for 99.9% of divorces, everything takes place behind closed doors.  In England and Wales, the only thing that will be made public is the fact that you are getting divorced – the application form is kept private as are your reasons for divorcing.  If the courts are called on to make a decision on finances, it’s incredibly rare for it to be done in open court or to be reported – this only happens when the case is of importance in legal terms and could set out principles for future decisions.  Even if case details are publicly available, they will generally only relate to the key points involved in the decision and the privacy of any children will be scrupulously protected.

Listen

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No doubt the Carters would seek to avoid court by engaging in some other kind of alternative dispute resolution.  It’s generally cheaper and quicker – something that’s likely to appeal to the two music industry entrepreneurs – or anybody for that matter.  Whether you negotiate through solicitors or have a few sessions with an expert mediator, trying to resolve things out of court can really take the heat out of the situation.

That said, mediation is not for everyone.  Depending on the circumstances of the break up, sitting in a room with your former partner could be extremely traumatic.  If that is the case then there are a number of mediation exemptions that could let you go straight to a court application.

Sorry

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Sometimes marriages just break down: people grow apart, they want different things, they fall out of love.  And sometimes they go catastrophically wrong because of the actions of one or both of the couple.

Beyoncé’s recent album Lemonade hinted at heartbreak caused by a liaison between her man and “Becky with the good hair”.  The media went crazy with speculation that Jay Z had been caught cheating with another woman.  Clients very often ask us if their cheating spouse will be punished by the courts for their behaviour.  Unfortunately for those clients, the answer is a resounding ‘no’.  The only time conduct can be considered by a court and used to penalise a party is when it is exceptionally serious – think attempts to kill the other person or deliberating gambling away all of the matrimonial assets.

Daddy Lessons

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No doubt if the relationship between Beyoncé and Jay broke down, at the top of their minds would be what happens to their children, Blue Ivy and the twins due later this year.  In England and Wales there is no ‘formula’ to decide where children live and contrary to popular belief, they don’t automatically live with their mother.

Divorce and child issues are treated separately by the courts so in the first case, it’s for the parents to decide between themselves where the children should live and where they should visit, say for the weekend.  If the former couple can’t reach an agreement, then they may want to speak with a mediator before making a court application as a last resort.  The court would consider what is in the best interests of the child or children and what would best serve their welfare.

When parents no longer live under the same roof, child maintenance will be payable. The Child Maintenance Options website has an online calculator to help parents work out the minimum basic maintenance they should pay or are entitled to receive.  It takes account of income, benefits, any other children and how often the children stay overnight with the parent who pays.

However, in some cases a court application may be necessary to top up maintenance.  Where the parent paying maintenance is a super high earner, like Jay Z would certainly be, the court can make an additional award of maintenance beyond the basic amount.

Upgrade U

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Jay Z and Beyoncé are both young parents and it’s likely that if they split, each would eventually meet a new partner.  This can be a real flash-point in relationship breakdown where an arrangement that previously worked well goes completely to pot.  Jealousy, resentment and discontent can all bubble to the surface.  Long-established routines may be changed to accommodate a new partner.  Therefore, it’s imperative that someone new be introduced to a child in a way that is mindful of the child’s needs and respectful of the former partner’s feelings.  Take things slowly.  Or if things are too slow and you feel your ex-spouse is putting the brakes on unnecessarily, a solicitor would be able to give you an idea of the court’s view on what you’re doing.  It’s rare for a court to stop a child meeting a new partner unless there’s a risk of harm to the child BUT do remember that conflict between parents about a new partner could be detrimental to the child’s happiness and contentment too.

We can’t wait to see the babies when they arrive later this year and we hope the Carter family have many happy decades ahead.  However, if things do go wrong, they’ll have the same worries and problems as you or I. Luckily, they’re things a family lawyer can help you deal with.  We have years of training and are ready to help as soon as you give us the Green Light.

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