Some of you may remember the dramatic press coverage of the breakdown of the relationship between Sir Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, when he said that there was never a legal marriage between the two of them and therefore there could be no divorce – potentially leaving Jerry Hall in a very different financial position than on a divorce. Of course it is always a good thing to remind people that there really is no such thing as a “common law” spouse in English law. So, it doesn’t matter how long a couple have been together, or how many children they have together, if there has been no legal marriage, there can be no enforceable financial claims as a wife, on the end of this union. Although the other celebrity couple possibly faced with this issue are not living in England, and not seeking a financial settlement here, there will no doubt be some unforeseen circumstances arising for them on discovering that they were not in fact legally married.
The couple that we are all talking about is; Elle “the body” Macpherson and billionaire Jeffrey Soffer, who were allegedly married in 2013 in a romantic ceremony in Fiji. According to the tourism information available, wedding ceremonies in Fiji are “recognised as legal worldwide”. However, it seems it is not quite that clear cut, as the Fiji embassy in Washington cautions visitors to its shores, who intend to get married there, that the law requires them to obtain a marriage licence from a marriage registry prior to the ceremony.
If it is correct that there was no legal marriage ceremony, then it may turn out that Elle and Jeffrey end up with consequences that neither of them intended or contemplated.
It is ever so slightly unbelievable that two people, who are wealthy business people and who no doubt have access to excellent legal advice, did not check the position beforehand. We will have to wait and see whether the reports we are seeing now turn out to be correct in what will no doubt be another high profile celebrity uncoupling.
If you have any questions about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact Louise Barretto, a Partner in our Family team, on direct dial 020 7091 2869 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.