Paul Hollywood and his wife Alexandra announced this week that their marriage has come to an end. Tabloid headlines are filled with speculation as to the reasons for the couple’s split, and what that might mean for the significant wealth that Paul has amassed as a host of the popular TV show “The Great British Bake Off”.
The financial implications of a couple’s separation are often a matter of great concern, and that will be no different for Mr and Mrs Hollywood. Given that the family are based in England, the law there will govern the division of their wealth, and the outcome will depend on matters such as the needs of both Paul and Alexandra, their standard of living, their earning capacities and the length of their marriage. Whilst the result of each case will depend on the particular facts and circumstances, assets are often divided equally between parties, regardless of whose name those assets are in and who has been responsible for creating the wealth.
In Scotland, we have a specific framework of rules governing the division of assets in the event of separation, the starting point for which is an equal division of all assets which have been accumulated during the period of the marriage. Assets which are owned by one party before the marriage, inherited or received by way of gift from a third party are specifically excluded from the matrimonial pot, provided those assets are still held in the same form at the date of separation. Special circumstances must exist before the matrimonial property will be divided unequally in one party’s favour.
Will Paul’s behaviour mean that his wife can argue for a greater financial award?
Paul has previously admitted having an affair with his co-presenter of the US version of the Bake Off, and sources have suggested that Paul’s “wandering eye” was the reason for the marriage breakdown.
Regardless of the reason for the split, Paul’s infidelity will have no impact on the level of payment which his wife can expect to receive. Courts throughout the UK operate a “no fault” system of divorce, whereby the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage are not relevant in assessing the level of financial provision. The only way in which such behaviour might be taken into account in determining the level of a financial award is if it has specifically impacted upon the parties’ finances.
The behaviour of an unfaithful spouse can be relevant, however, to enable an aggrieved party to seek divorce at an earlier stage than would otherwise be the case. A court will only grant an order for divorce when it is satisfied that the marriage has irretrievably broken down – which can be established by showing that a party has committed adultery or otherwise behaved unreasonably. In the absence of such behaviour, parties require to live apart for a certain length of time before a court will agree to formalise their divorce. In England, that can be for as long as five years where both parties do not consent to divorce. Even when both parties wish to be divorced, they must live apart for a period of two years before an English court will grant the necessary order (in the absence of adultery or unreasonable behaviour). In Scotland, the relevant time periods are two years and one year respectively.
What about Paul and Alexandra’s son?
In their public statement, Paul and Alexandra have vowed to work together to ensure the well-being of their teenage son. Their son is at an age where the courts would be unlikely to interfere in the arrangements for his care, regardless of the views of his parents. In any event, the law encourages parties to agree the care arrangements for children of any age wherever possible, and situations where parents share the day to day care of their children (on an equal or unequal basis) are very much the norm.
Will they be able to keep details of their divorce private?
No doubt Mr and Mrs Hollywood will be keen to ensure that the intimate details of their personal lives and finances are kept out of the public eye. Although the English courts generally conduct divorce proceedings in private, some publicity is often unavoidable in the event that matters end up in court. As such, Paul and Alexandra would be well advised to avoid litigation if at all possible.
If the pair do not manage to resolve matters between themselves by way of negotiation with the assistance of their respective solicitors’, there are a number of other options open to them to seek to resolve matters arising from their separation in a more private and confidential environment, such as mediation or arbitration.
If you are looking for advice on any matters arising from the breakdown of a relationship, please get in touch with one of the Family Law team at Turcan Connell.