Prince Harry & Meghan Markle: a divorce lawyer’s warning

Divorce|November 1st 2016

The Times this morning splashed a tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted article across two of its pages entitled Meghan – how the royal family needs you. It’s just one of a series of pieces across the UK media about Prince Harry’s rumoured new love.

Meghan Markle is a stunning, 35 year old, divorced Hollywood actress with whom our handsome, single and fun-loving Prince is apparently smitten. To be fair, it’s made clear in the piece that the evidence for romance is still quite thin. They seem to wear the same bracelet and both were in Toronto and London at the same time. Still, if The Times has published, perhaps we can be more confident there is some fire beneath the smoke.

The paper asks – rhetorically – whether Ms Markle is “princess material”. Perhaps she is and perhaps she isn’t seems to be the conclusion. But there we part company. As a divorce lawyer with well over thirty years’ experience of seeing once happy couples part company, my own rhetorical follow-up question would be: if the worst comes to the worst, is she divorce material?

Both rhetorical questions do matter and so it is in the public interest to speculate on both. Prince Harry is arguably, for many people, perhaps the most popular member of the Royal Family after the Queen herself. He really is one of the main reasons we all love the Royals, whether in this country or abroad. He is down-to-earth, friendly, cheekily imperfect but capable also of pulling off fantastic achievements like the Invictus Games. His obvious love of his Grandmother and of service to the country cannot be faulted.

He is one of the best of the Royal Family brand and what he does could well help to secure the future of the Monarchy in the UK and across the Commonwealth when his Grandmother is no longer around to do so. For many people also, despite his position,  he is quite simply ‘one of us’. And we want him to be happy. We want to see him carrying out his duties with a beautiful wife smiling beside him, raising a family. We want a rosy future for a young man who grew up with his fair share of broken marriages across his family, as well as the tragedy that befell his mother of course. The acrimony between Prince Charles and Princess Diana preceding Paris was  of their own making, let’s also not forget, despite all the privilege they had. So no matter who you are, no matter what you have, mistakes can still be made. And in the case of Prince Harry’s parents, the fall out was felt across the world and it rocked the institution of Monarchy.

So like those close members of his family,  who Prince Harry marries is important – not just for him but for the whole Monarchy, something which he cannot escape, whether he likes it or not.

Marriage can be unpredictable and success is certainly not guaranteed. I’ve been to a wedding in the past and found myself thinking ‘no no no’ as the bride walked down the aisle. On another occasion I predicted marital doom after a best man’s speech – and I was right on both occasions!

So my first thought on hearing of a marriage or potential marriage is often: if it doesn’t last, what kind of divorce might follow?

Take a look at how divorce is conducted US style. Not behind closed doors as we do it over here, with both parties tightly battened down by court order. Consider the international courtroom confrontations conducted by Madonna from New York or Angelina Jolie from LA.

In this country prenups are still not legal. But let’s assume a US wife-to-be of Prince Harry signed one, which I guess she would be required to do to try and keep a lid on a divorce if, heaven forbid, one ever happened.

It would probably be rubber-stamped by the courts back in LA where she comes from. And in the event of this hypothetical divorce I don’t doubt the English courts would uphold the agreement. There would be an expectation of absolute privacy. But I don’t think matters would end there.

Why would a US citizen wish to stay in England? Wouldn’t she head straight back home, taking any children with her? Of course, without the Prince’s consent taking the children with her would be illegal. What would the poor guy do then? Start proceedings in this country and LA?

The forlorn figure of the so-called ‘stuck Mum’ is a familiar figure to family lawyers. She is the woman unable to leave her ex-husband’s country and return home because they had children together. Some have written to this blog. Some stick it out, unhappy and isolated. Others throw in the towel and surrender their children to their ex and then only rarely see them afterwards. Even Madonna with all her wealth was not immune. Consider the added difficulties that would be faced by a stuck Dad who also happened to be one of the Heirs to the British throne and one of the most popular members of the Royal Family?

But far more unpleasant, there would be the clear and ever present danger of a US citizen’s ability to talk to the press while going through a divorce (probably via a highly supportive LA based lawyer). The risks presented by this option should never, ever, be underestimated. The value to the Media of whatever she had to say would be immense – and the damage it could potentially cause to an unsuspecting Prince and to the Monarchy could be incalculable. Such a headline-grabbing divorce, if it ever happened, would make those of Diana, Fergie, and Angelina Jolie all look tame by comparison.

So if Prince Harry ever truly thinks of getting married for real (and frankly, as he’s one of the most eligible men in the world, what’s the rush?) he would be wise in my view to ask himself this simple question:

“What kind of divorce would it be?”

Read The Times article here. (subscription required)

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  1. Vincent McGovern says:

    A wonderfully incisive article.

  2. Kirsten Gronning says:

    Food for thought for anyone in a relationship with a non-Brit, especially if thinking of starting a family…though they may not like what the answer is to the question: “What kind of divorce would it be?”

  3. Andrew says:

    You remind me of a former client of mine who was an undertaker. When people heard what he did on social occasions they would say
    I suppose you’re measuring me up
    to which he would answer
    No, you’re standard size!

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