Honey, I shrunk your wallet

Need a top family lawyer? A new table
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The Independent Online

As Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger recently discovered, breaking up can be a messy as well as a very expensive business. Now, following the publication of a new table of the UK's high-profile divorces, Mick and Jerry know exactly how costly their break-up is compared with other famous couples.

As Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger recently discovered, breaking up can be a messy as well as a very expensive business. Now, following the publication of a new table of the UK's high-profile divorces, Mick and Jerry know exactly how costly their break-up is compared with other famous couples.

Published in the latest Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession, the table ranks this year's five high- profile marriage break-ups in order of the size of the payout.

Heading the table is the settlement between Pablo Picasso's daughter, Paloma, and the Argentinian playwright, Rafael Lopez-Cambil. The estimated £250m Picasso break-up makes it the most expensive in UK court history, and £240m more than the second placed settlement, between Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall.

The purpose of the new table is to show how the biggest divorces of the year influence Chambers' more famous league tables of family lawyers. "This is another way of looking at the market and another check on our research," said editor Reena SenGupta. The Chambers researchers looked at all the reported cases considered over 20 high-profile settlements of the year.

Paul and Sheryl Gascoigne's £1.5m divorce was ranked as the fourth most expensive, while the case of the "greedy wife", whose payout of £800,000 was cut to £175,000 on appeal because of her ill-treatment of her husband, was in fifth place. A couple known only as "Mr and Mrs White" had the third most expensive divorce with a case in which Mrs White won £1.5m on appeal.

The researchers also looked at the divorces of Rupert Murdoch and Earl Spencer, but both of these took place outside the UK.

In any case, it is unlikely either of these would have topped the Picasso payout. Legal costs alone were estimated to be £4m - greater than the combined settlements of third, fourth and fifth-placed divorces. Miss Picasso and Mr Lopez-Cambil married in 1973, going on to build up a fashion and perfume enterprise with sales of up to £500m a year. Her inheritance of at least £450m and her share of the business made Miss Picasso one of the richest women in the world. The divorce was settled privately in February. Before this case, the highest known divorce settlement in a British court was £32m.

In the so called "greedy wife" case, the Court of Appeal reduced Julia Clark's £800,000 settlement to just £175,000 after hearing that she had virtually kept her 85-year-old husband a prisoner in his own home.

She refused to sleep with him, banished him to a caravan in the garden, and then took a lover to share part of the house with her.

Nearly all of these cases are reflected in the final table of the best family lawyers in the country. The Chambers researchers had considered adding Robin Cook's divorce to the list. "But we couldn't find out enough about the settlement. Many of these divorces are kept confidential," said one of the researchers.

Lady Helen Ward, who acted for Paloma Picasso, is ranked as one of the country's 17 leading family lawyers. And her firm of the London solicitors, Manches & Co, shares the top spot with Withers. She is described by the Chambers directory as someone who is known to work "prodigiously hard, and fight hard".

Sandra Davis, the lawyer who acted for Jerry Hall, is also named as one of the top 17 family lawyers. Ms Davis, a partner at Mishcon de Reya, is credited for helping to secure Princess Diana's £17m divorce settlement. However, there is no mention of Joyce Smyth, of Smyth Barkham, who acted for Mick Jagger. And despite Withers' top position in the table it is not mentioned in connection with the divorce table.

Yet the table gives an entrée to the Chambers directory to readers who are ignorant of the legal profession. "If you are getting divorced and you are in this kind of income bracket then the table will be very useful," said Ms SenGupta.