Keeping Up With A Very Modern Divorce
Published on 21 April, 2021 | Katie Welton-Dillon
For most of us, family life is something rather private.
Away from work and even friends, spending time at home represents a form of sanctuary.
However, there are individuals who have established enormous profile and great wealth from displaying even relatively intimate family moments to a watching audience.
Although the trend arguably started with a reality show about the rock singer Ozzy Osborne and his family, the most famous subjects of all are the Kardashians.
Over the course of 20 series since 2007, Kim Kardashian and her siblings have become some of the most recognisable people on the planet.
When she wed the rapper Kanye West in May 2014, a decade after he won his first Grammy, it may have seemed – if you pardon the pun – a marriage made in television heaven.
By virtue of their fame, their music and their varied business interests – Kim with make-up and “shapewear”; Kanye with training shoes and clothing lines (https://edition.cnn.com/2021/03/18/business/kanye-west-net-worth/index.html#:~:text=The%20vast%20majority%20of%20West’s,UBS%20report%20published%20in%20February.) – the couple are both rich and hugely influential.
But it’s due to the rather less fortunate circumstances of their divorce that I believe they could ultimately have a more telling impact on relationships than the hit songs or TV show ever could.
It’s been reported that Kim and Kanye – or ‘KimYe’, as they have been dubbed – have finalised the terms of their divorce (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-56718074).
As you might expect, the revelation has generated a slew of media coverage across the globe.
Rather than emulating some of the apparently acrimonious marital breakdowns which have featured on the pages of our newspapers and lifestyle magazines, they seem to have ended their seven years together in a very amicable and progressive fashion.
Under the terms of a pre-nuptial agreement, it appears that they kept their respective property separate.
Whilst prenups are a much more frequent feature of marriages in the United States than here, I reckon that more people will take notice of how they can help in the event of an eventual divorce due to the Kardashian-Wests than the historic Radmacher Supreme Court ruling in 2010 (http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2010/42.html).
In giving the documents greater weight when it came to determining how a couple’s assets are divided, the Radmacher judgement spurred more men and women to adopt them as a means of simplifying the division of a couple’s assets.
Yet that message can be driven home more firmly when the examples are instead a reality TV star and rapper with a combined 315 million social media followers between them.
We should also consider how the pair have agreed joint custody of their four children.
The youngest two children were born to surrogates, something which my colleague Melanie Kalina has previously noted are an increasingly popular method of starting a family in England and Wales (https://hallbrown.co.uk/courts-baby-cotton-and-the-normalising-of-surrogacy/).
The approximate English equivalent of ‘joint custody’ is a Child Arrangement Order which provides for shared care.
However, shared care doesn’t necessarily mean an equal division of time for parents.
In England and Wales, there isn’t a presumption that the care of a child will be evenly split but a presumption that the involvement of both parents in a child’s life will further its welfare, unless there is a suggestion to the contrary.
Nevertheless, as many campaigners here have pointed out, shared parenting is not necessarily as equal as it may appear to suggest.
In my view, there is certainly room for improvement in ensuring that both parents play an equal and full role in their child’s life.
There is, for me, also a third dimension to the Kardashian-West divorce.
They agreed, it seems, that their marriage should end because of “irreconcilable differences”.
It’s a similar arrangement to the ‘no-fault’ provisions in the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, which became law in June last year and is due to come into force sometime in the coming months (https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/2524).
Allowing spouses who recognise that their marriage has failed to separate without the animosity that a petition of unreasonable behaviour can create is a tremendous step forward.
Kim and Kanye may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Even so, the way in which they have divorced underlines how it’s possible to avoid conflict in the delicate circumstances of a broken marriage.
Having others follow that example might not necessarily be compelling viewing but it’s sure to find favour with family lawyers like myself.