Choose Your Future: Obi-Wan Kenobi And The Benefits Of Openness On Divorce
Published on 24 August, 2020 | Hannah Baddeley
For many cinema goers of a certain age, Ewan McGregor will always be Mark Renton, the lead character in director Danny Boyle’s 1995 film adaptation of ‘Trainspotting’, a series of short stories by Scottish author Irvine Welsh.
However, since the movie’s success propelled him to global fame, Mr McGregor has featured in more than 40 other big screen and television productions, including five instalments of the ‘Star Wars’ franchise as Ben ‘Obi Wan’ Kenobi.
Of course, he fulfilled another role for more than two decades, as husband to production designer Eve Mavrakis – whom he married the year after his breakthrough movie had its theatrical release – and father to their four children.
The marriage ended in 2017 when he set up home with the actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whom he’d met on the set of the Netflix series ‘Fargo’.
The break-up was seized upon by celebrity gossip columnists with the tone of coverage not exactly helped by critical comments made about Mr McGregor’s new partner by his own daughter (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/be373680-ab9f-11e8-8404-0bee60a6f70d?shareToken=a4da35988c7abfb1de88bda5b78d550f).
In recent days, news reports have suggested that Mr McGregor and his ex-wife have reached a financial settlement.
In addition to agreeing ongoing parental responsibiities for their youngest child, paying child and spousal maintenance totalling just over £460,000 a year, the reports have disclosed how, under the terms of the settlement, income earned from films or TV series in which he appeared during the course of the marriage – including future “residuals and royalities” – has been divided equally, along with the couple’s various properties.
Furthermore, Ms Mavrakis keeps her jewellery, while Mr McGregor retains ownership of 30 of the family’s vehicles with another five going to his ex-wife.
To the uninitiated, it might sound like they have been through a fairly forensic process and…well…that’s exactly the way that it should be.
Dividing marital assets is not a casual arrangement but an essential part of the divorce process and one which ultimately aims to be fair to both spouses.
Without the kind of full and frank disclosure which is required by the courts and which we insist upon whenever we speak to clients wanting to end their marriages, it wouldn’t really be fair at all.
Most couples don’t necessarily have the kind of wealth which Mr McGregor and his fellow Hollywood ‘A’-listers possess but any divorce – regardless of status or fame – requires absolute candour.
The disclosure part of the process in England and Wales involves something known to family lawyers as ‘Form E’, the document in which divorcing husbands and wives must declare both their assets and liabilities.
That is essential because one of the key objectives of a divorce settlement is meeting the needs of the less well-off spouse and any dependent children.
Completing Form E properly means putting down all assets, such as income, bank accounts, stocks and shares or property, including anything with a resale value of more than £500.
That can be items such as the jewellery or cars which were dealt with in the McGregor-Mavrakis divorce or even furniture and designer handbags.
Liabilities, like outstanding credit card balances, unpaid loans or gambling debts, also need to be disclosed in order to be taken into account.
Over the years, there have been examples of individuals who have attempted to outwit their exes and the courts.
In 2013, the Supreme Court in London ruled against an oil tycoon, Michael Prest, who maintained that a string of luxury properties which he’d been ordered to hand over to his ex-wife as part of a £17.5 settlement were, in fact, owned by his companies and not his personal assets (https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2013-0004-judgment.pdf).
Earlier this year, Tatiana Akhmedova attempted to have her eldest son, Temur, joined to a case as she tried to finally realise the rest of the £453 million share of her billionaire former husband’s fortune which had been awarded to her by a court in London in 2016 as part of their long-running divorce proceedings (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/10/oligarchs-wife-brings-son-into-high-stakes-divorce-case).
She had only recovered the first portion of that sum when Mr Akhmedov’s helicopter was seized and sold in December 2018 (https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-divorce-akhmedov/ex-wife-of-russian-billionaire-secures-first-sliver-of-572-mln-divorce-bill-idUKKBN1OC2NS)
It’s important to understand that trying to dodge the disclosure process is not without consequence.
If people are found to have been less than truthful in disclosing assets, courts can intervene to restart the process from scratch, even if settlements had been agreed.
That’s because, just as during a marriage, trust is an important quality on divorce. The ending of a marriage can generate great emotion and stress but being open can reduce some of the natural tension and make for a more constructive ongoing relationship between former partners, especially when children are involved.
In my experience, those men and women who are honest really are pursuing the best policy.