Mills and McCartney- summary

Going into the trial, Heather Mills made an offer that she receive £125m, and that Sir Paul pay her costs. Paul McCartney offered that she receive £15m with no order as to costs. Heather Mills sought, as part of her package, that Paul McCartney pay her £3m a year for her and their daughter Beatrice’s… Read More »Custom Single Post Header

Family Law Section Law Council of Australia Award
Member of Queensland law society
Family law Practitioners Association
International Academy of Family Lawyers - IAFL
Mediator Standards Board

Mills and McCartney- summary

Going into the trial, Heather Mills made an offer that she receive £125m, and that Sir Paul pay her costs. Paul McCartney offered that she receive £15m with no order as to costs.

Heather Mills sought, as part of her package, that Paul McCartney pay her £3m a year for her and their daughter Beatrice’s “reasonable needs”, which when capitalised ended up at about £100m.

Justice Bennett ordered that:

“the husband will pay to the wife on or after decree nisi a lump sum of £16.5m. This then means that she will exit the marriage with property and funds of £24.3m.”

What Heather Mills did was to say in effect- “This is the standard of living that we enjoyed when together. This is the standard of living that my daughter and I should enjoy post-separation. My husband is a wealthy man.”

Paul McCartney’s position about ongoing need and the length of the marriage was not surprising: “(F)undamentally 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…”

There were three issues which Justice Bennett had to decide:

-when the parties met was the wife a wealthy and independent person?
– did the parties cohabit from March 2000 or from the date of marriage, 11 June 2002?
– did the husband restrict the wife’s career after they cohabited?

In commenting about the parties, his Honour said:

“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.

“But I regret to have to say I cannot say the same about the wife’s evidence. Having watched and listened to her give evidence, having studied the documents, and having given in her favour every allowance for the enormous strain she must have been under (and in conducting her own case) I am driven to the conclusion that much of her evidence, both written and oral, was not just inconsistent and inaccurate but also less than candid. Overall she was a less than impressive witness.”

Was the wife wealthy and independent when they got together?

In a nutshell, no- because of a lack of documentary evidence. His Honour said:

“I cannot accept the wife’s case that she was wealthy and independent by the time she met the husband in the middle of 1999. Her problem stems from the lack of any documentary evidence to support her case as to the level of her earnings. I do not doubt her commitment to charitable causes. She is passionate about them, particularly those that involve working for, and with, amputees. The DVDs shown to me in court amply bear that out. I do not doubt that she modelled successfully and was a public speaker. But the investigation in this case of her assets and earnings as at 1999 when the parties met do not bear out her case….I find that the wife’s case as to her wealth in 1999 to be wholly exaggerated. ”

The importance of this issue cannot be overstated. If the wife were wealthy as she asserted then this could have meant she would end up with substantially more property.

Did they start living together in 2000 or 2002?

His Honour found:

“I am prepared to accept that the wife and the husband from 1999 to the date of their marriage spent many, many nights together, holidayed together and became engaged. They had a very close relationship. But that does not, in my judgment, in the circumstances of this case, equate with a settled, committed relationship moving seamlessly into marriage…. (T)heir true and settled relationship lasted from marriage (June 2002) and not from March 2000.”

Did the husband restrict the wife’s career after they cohabited?

The wife’s case was clear:

“Even after we were married I continued to use my own money to live. Paul repeatedly told me that he would make sure that I was financially secure, should my money run out. My income stream and my savings did start to run out drastically. I was no longer able to support my standard of living as I had substantially reduced my workload in order to spend time with Paul and to support him and his children emotionally. My ability to earn the same level of income I had been earning diminished once my relationship with Paul became serious.

“Countless lucrative business opportunities were made to me once Paul and I married. Sadly, Paul advised against 99% of all of them. He stated that they were only interested in me because of his name and that I should just stick to charity work and he would take car of me. When I was asked to design clothes, create a food line, write books, make a video, write music or do photography, Paul would almost always state something like “Oh no you can’t do that, Stella does that or Mary does that or Heather (his adopted daughter) used to do that or Linda did that.” even though I had been involved with fashion and modelling for years. If I had been free to pursue my TV career, especially in the US, then I believe, and have been told by other professionals, I would have made millions. Paul would not allow me to work in the US. For example he would not allow me to work on the Larry King show. He would tell me “we won’t be living there and you would be a bad mother if you worked.” Therefore, Paul made it impossible for me to pursue a career in the U.S. Shortly after telling me I would be a “bad mother” if I worked, Paul booked a 3 month US tour dragging Beatrice and me around America. If we had been able to base ourselves in one place I would have been able to accept the hosting of some of the Larry King shows or to do something to further my career. I believe now that Paul’s reason for refusing to support me in doing something career wise was his fear of losing my undivided attention. He also needed to be the centre of attention at all times.”

The problem that the wife had was partly in the documentary evidence:

-in the period that the parties lived together, her income as stated in her tax returns improved, not worsened
– the wife pointed out to missing out on a £1M bra modelling contract. The only documentary evidence for that was an email from a creative director in which there was no mention of money. There was no mention in the judgment of the wife having called that creative director as a witness.
– in 2002 the wife published a book stating that in 2001 she had little time for anything else than charity and public speaking

It also appeared to Justice Bennett that the husband had not held back the wife as to one deal:

“The wife blames the husband for her failure to commit. He was restrictive and discouraged her. The husband’s evidence is that the wife’s unreliability was not caused by him. He was unable to explain why the wife did not commit herself when offered dates ………… The husband, in my judgment, gave compelling evidence that no-one tells the wife what to do. This accords with his written evidence that the wife is very strong willed. Indeed watching the wife give evidence and present her case she came across to me as strong willed and very determined.”

Ongoing contributions

Did the wife contribute? The husband conceded that she cared for their child and was a good mother. This is what Justice Bennett said:

“In my judgment the picture painted by the husband of the wife’s part in his emotional and professional life is much closer to reality than the wife’s account. The wife, as the husband said, enjoys being the centre of attention. Her presence on his tours came about because she loved the husband, enjoyed being there and because she thoroughly enjoyed the media and public attention. I am prepared to accept that her presence was emotionally supportive to him but to suggest that in some way she was his “business partner” is, I am sorry to have to say, make-belief.

“The wife, I find, was fully involved in the planning and construction of the Cabin, which was their matrimonial home. But the picture she describes of being the sole, or virtually the sole, organiser or arranger of renovating etc in the husband’s other properties is, I find, exaggerated. I am sure she played a significant part, but it was very much in conjunction with the husband.

“I have to say that the wife’s evidence that in some way she was the husband’s “psychologist”, even allowing for hyperbole, is typical of her make-belief. I reject her evidence that she, vis-à-vis the husband, was anything more than a kind and loving person who was deeply in love with him, helped him through his grieving and like any new wife tried to integrate into their relationship the children of his former marriage. I wholly reject her account that she rekindled the husband’s professional flame and gave him back his confidence…

“In her final submissions the wife described her contribution as “exceptional”. I reject her case. I am afraid I have to say her case on this issue is devoid of reality. The husband’s evidence is far more persuasive.”

Husband’s property

His Honour said:

“It is unnecessary in the instant case to arrive at a precise figure for the total wealth of the husband, given its enormous size. As he has always accepted, he can pay any sum which the court considers appropriate as for financial provision for the wife. Nevertheless I find that the husband’s total wealth amounts to approximately £400m. I reject the wife’s case that he is worth £800m. There is absolutely no evidence at all to support that figure or any figure anywhere near it.”

Wife’s property

The wife’s property was about £7m. There was argument about whether or not her legal costs should be added back to the property pool.

Standard of living

His Honour said:

“For 10 months of the near 4 year marriage the husband was touring. This entailed first class international travel, first class hotels, and internal private flights. The husband and wife went on expensive and sometimes exotic holidays. They lived well. They often flew by private jet and /or helicopter. They always flew first class if flying with a commercial airline. The wife had an allowance of £360,000 p.a. The husband paid all the major bills. But that said, their lifestyle in their homes, particularly in England, was comparatively simple. The Cabin was a very modest property. They largely stayed in and did not eat out. They enjoyed riding and yoga. There was no round the clock security. The security in Sussex was provided by the farm workers. There was no live-in staff. The parties did not spend their time on yachts or, in the memorable phrase of the celebrated economist, Prof. J.K.Galbraith, on “conspicuous consumption”. They spent time in New York and at 11, Pintail, a modest holiday home. They never visited the Scottish properties.

“I am satisfied that the wife has expected, and unreasonably, that such a lifestyle would not only continue but was her entitlement. She did not moderate her spending after separation. I entirely accept that when a marriage breaks down, the maelstrom of a broken relationship may well envelop both spouses and make it very difficult for them to re-order their lives, particularly financial. But I have no doubt that in the wife’s mindset, there was an element that she was going to spend (in the 15 month period) in order thereby to hope to prove that a budget in excess of £3m p.a. put forward in her [financial statement] in September 2006 was justifiable.”

By contrast, the wife’s allowance before separation was £350,000.

Things to Read, Watch & Listen

Who Is a Parent Then – Is Three a Crowd?

Stephen Page’s Paper presented to the Legal Services Commission, Adelaide on 19 November, 2021.

The Importance of Reaching Out Early Following Separation

In this video, Accredited Family Law Specialist Bruce Provan shares the importance of reaching out early if you’re contemplating or going through a separation.

The Changes to the Family Law System

In this video, Accredited Family Law Specialist Bruce Provan keeps us in the loop on the changes to the family law system.