Celebrity divorces have captured the headlines throughout much of 2023. While these cases involve some of the most famous people in the world, they are indicative of trends within family law more broadly, including a desire for greater privacy and control over what can be an emotionally turbulent process.
Divorce and Family partner Toby Atkinson and senior associates Trevona Hettiarachchi and Ellie Hampson-Jones consider the child arrangements recently agreed by Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner, and the ’iron clad’ prenup established by the now-divorcing Ariana Grande and Dalton Gomez, and what they tell us about the broader state of divorce and family for high net worth individuals.
Joe Jonas, Sophie Turner and child custody
Controversy quickly surrounded the news of Joe Jonas filing for divorce from Sophie Turner after reports emerged that Turner had filed court documents to attempt to bring their children to the UK, with a representative of Jonas going as far as to tell the Daily Mail that “the children were not abducted”.
A wrongful retention is when a child has been taken from their home country with the other parent’s consent, but is not returned as agreed. If the countries involved are both signatories to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction, as both the UK and US are, then a streamlined court process can be used to seek the child’s immediate return to the place of their “habitual residence”.
However, whilst the question of a child’s “habitual residence” will often be a straightforward one for a court to decide, it can be less clear cut in cases involving international families, particularly those who have the use of multiple homes in different countries and who spend their time moving regularly between these locations. There will also often be a dispute between parents as to what arrangements were agreed, and whether a parent has consented or acquiesced to the actions of the other. It is of critical importance for parents to seek urgent specialist advice in these situations, whether they are the “left behind” parent or the parent who is alleged by the other to have abducted or wrongfully retained their child.
Following the initial war of words, Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas have subsequently agreed how the children will share their time with each of them. The separating couple released a joint statement: “After a productive and successful mediation, we have agreed that the children will spend time equally in loving homes in both the US and the UK. We look forward to being great co-parents.”
This agreement is an example of how separated parents can use out of court solutions, including mediation, in the best interests of their children to resolve disputes as to their care, rather than having an arrangement imposed on them by the Court. It is well recognised that where it is safe to do so, children benefit from full and loving relationships with each parent.
Ariana Grande, Dalton Gomez and prenups
Married in 2021, Ariana Grande and Dalton Gomez finalised their divorce in October 2023. Terms included a one-off payment of $1,250,000 from Grande to Gomez in place of ongoing maintenance and a 50/50 split of the sale proceeds from their Los Angeles home.
Having an ‘iron clad’ prenup in place appears to be a key factor in enabling Grande and Gomez to separate amicably. More generally, having an agreement going into marriage, particularly in circumstances where one party may have generated significant wealth prior to their partner coming into their life, can really help to lower the temperature when needing to resolve the finances on the breakdown of a relationship.
It is for this reason that we are increasingly seeing high net worth clients marrying for the first time, those entering into second marriages or young professionals turn to such agreements. Whilst they are not automatically enforceable in England in the same way that they are in LA – they will hold significant weight provided certain criteria are attached.
English pre-nuptial agreements do not tend to contain the same kind of “Hollywood” ‘book deal’ clauses. This is because the English court attaches a much greater emphasis on confidentiality than the Californian Family courts. However, the attitude in the English court is changing – perhaps another reason to consider entering into a pre-nuptial agreement avoiding the need for anything to be heard in open court.
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