Sir Paul McCartney, estranged wife Heather Mills and their sundry legal reps reportedly spent nearly 10 hours holed up at an October 11 private High Court hearing but failed to hammer out a divorce settlement.
The only winners so far – apart from lawyers reportedly charging £500 per hour – are the journalists who’ve been rubbing their hands at the prospect of a disputed and salacious public court battle in the new year.
Their hopes have been lifted by the fact the main stumbling block between Macca and Mills – The Sun calls her Mucca – is that she seems reluctant to agree to any deal that involves her keeping her mouth shut about it afterward.
The U.K. papers are saying she’s going through all this with one eye on writing a book and appearing on American chat shows.
"Obviously there were other factors but confidentiality is one of the big problems," an unnamed source reportedly told the Daily Telegraph.
The paper claims McCartney is said to be happy to give her £50 million of his estimated £825 million fortune provided she agrees not to talk about their marriage. But Lady McCartney would prefer to settle for as much as £15 million less as long as she can still spill the beans.
Other dailies have reported similar figures, although The Sun is also reporting that there’s a gulf between the £2 million a year maintenance he’s prepared to pay and the £3.5 million she wants.
The hearing in front of Justice Coleridge will have looked at all the offers and counteroffers, leaving the judge to advise on what he thinks a court would award if the dispute went to trial.
If both parties agree to accept the judge’s view, it’s job done and nobody need be any wiser about the settlement unless the husband or the wife reveals it. Nearly 80 percent of U.K. divorce cases are settled at this stage.
The next stage is likely to be a final hearing in front of another judge, who will make an order on what he or she feels the settlement should be.
If that order is disputed, it would be done in the Court Of Appeal, which would be the public hearing that the journalists would relish.
At £50 million, the deal would outstrip the £48 million insurance broker John Charman had to pay his former wife Beverley in May, the U.K.’s biggest contested divorce settlement to date.
It wouldn’t necessarily make it the U.K.’s biggest divorce settlement, as some papers are reporting, because some of those agreed privately on a judge’s view are believed to have run to hundreds of millions.