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A Royal divorce

The Royal family and divorce: In recent weeks the Royal family has been rocked by the news that Peter and Autumn Phillips were to divorce after 12 years of marriage followed up by the announcement that David Armstrong-Jones, the 2nd Earl of Snowdon and the eldest son of Princess Margaret, is to part ways with his wife of 26 years, Serena, the Countess of Snowdon.

As we know, it’s nothing new – on average 42% of marriages end in divorce in England and Wales but is a Royal divorce any different from the ones we deal with every day?

Solicitor, Gabrielle Read-Thomas (wannabe Royal Correspondent) from the Stowe Family Law office in Altrincham joins us on the blog to explain how a royal divorce differs from a commoner one…

The Royal family and divorce

Allegedly Royal Protocol suggests that the Queen’s permission must be obtained in order to issue divorce proceedings but thereafter the procedure would follow in the ordinary way in that a divorce petition is prepared and issued by the court and financial matters are simultaneously dealt with.

The grounds given for divorce remain that the marriage has irretrievably broken down supported by one of the five facts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years separation with consent, desertion, 5 years separation. 

Reports suggest that the Royal Family encourage a period of separation prior to divorce proceedings being issued. This suggests that the common ground relied on by them is two years separation with consent – the most amicable ground and also the one that would cause the least controversy. 

The Royal family divorce and money 

Resolving financial matters is the area where more difficulty is likely to arise. The high-profile divorces of Prince Andrew and the Duchess of York and Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales receiving sizeable settlements. In fact, some reports suggested that Diana received a lump sum of £17 million and spousal maintenance payments of £400,000 a year. 

There is no doubt that financial matters concerning the Royal Family are complex. They are millionaires, with sideline businesses, inherited wealth, annual grants, priceless heirlooms, antiques, private investments – the list goes on.

As with any financial settlement in a divorce, it is only possible to determine whether the terms of a settlement are fair if a process of full and frank disclosure has been followed. 

The primary consideration the court will have is needs-based in cases where there is clearly more than enough money to go around complex arguments over pre-acquired assets, inherited wealth and wealth acquired from a family dynasty held on trust are likely to be employed.

Approach to divorce 

The approach the Royal Family appears to have taken thus far is to offer very generous settlement proposals to prevent a financial dispute being taken through the court. This is no doubt in a bid to avoid controversy and negative publicity;  a very sensible approach if you can afford to take it.

Get in touch

If you would like any advice on divorce you can visit our divorce guide page or please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here. 

Gabrielle is a Senior Associater in our Altrincham family solicitors office . She advises clients on all elements of a relationship breakdown including financial settlements and making arrangements for children.

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