November 5, 2007

Baby you can drive my car, or: how would an Oregon family law court handle the McCartney-Mills split?

The Paul McCartney/Heather Mills divorce action is all over the tabloids (and some of us at the Oregon Divorce Blog just love our celebrity gossip). It’s no wonder, though – Sir Paul’s fortune is in the hundreds of millions, and his soon-to-be-ex-wife is, under British law, entitled to a large chunk of that fortune.

While perusing the newest gossip, we found ourselves wondering that if this case had arisen in Oregon, however — and if either Sir Paul or Heather had resided in Oregon for the six months prior to filing the action, it could have — how would one of our courts have handled the case? Just take a look…

First, let’s list the issues at stake in the divorce. There’s property division, potential spousal support, and child custody (the pair have a four year old daughter, Beatrice). Often in a case where one party has significant assets, a prenuptial agreement is in effect — but in this case, Heather offered to sign one but Sir Paul declined her invitation.

1. Property Division

In Oregon, there is the concept of “equal contribution” to assets and property during a marriage. Specifically, there is a “rebuttable presumption” that both parties contributed equally to the property acquired during the marriage. Under Oregon law, a homemaker’s contributions must also be considered. What this means is from the get-go, a court will assume, as a default position, that both parties contributed equally. If one party wants to claim the other party didn’t contribute to the asset or property, then the burden is on that party to prove it.

Sir Paul rakes in cash to the tune of £48.5 million last year alone (that’s over 100,000,000 USD as of today’s exchange rate). A five year marriage would be about 500 million USD — and presumptively half of that would be Heather’s, unless Sir Paul is able to rebut the presumption that Heather contributed equally to its acquisition. Yowza.

Next up: Spousal Support