Out of the Woods: Tiger's wife Elin to bag $100m and custody in divorce settlement

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The Independent US

To say that Tiger Woods has grown fond of behaving like a single man is a bit like observing he's pretty decent at golf. Now it may be even more redundant: this morning, for the first time in six years, the headline-prone sportsman is thought to be waking-up as a single man.

The final chapter in a marriage that so publicly hit trouble in November, when Woods crashed an SUV into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home - sparking a chain of events that turned him from squeaky-clean superstar athlete into an international punch-line - was being written by teams of lawyers last week, as he and his wife Elin haggled over their divorce agreement.

At stake was not only Tiger's vast personal fortune, and the custody of his two small children, but also what remains of their jealously-guarded privacy. By cutting a deal out of court, the couple have avoided the indignity of having to file papers outlining, in blow-by-blow detail, their marital breakdown.

“Outside the ropes there are certainly still distractions,” said Woods, when asked about his family wife at a tournament in Philadelphia this week. “It is what it is. I think everyone has had distractions in their lives [but] I think that my life out here on tour is becoming more normalised.” Elin, who was photographed near their Florida home, remained tight-lipped.

The couple can be forgiven for keeping their disagreements out of court, since gory details of celebrity legal disputes have a habit of leaking. On Thursday, a tape recording being used as evidence in Mel Gibson's supposedly-secret child-custody battle, in which the actor used a racial slur, somehow found its way into the public domain.

Either way, the fact that Elin could also “go nuclear” and ensure that gory details of her 34-year-old former husband's serial infidelity ends up being shared with the prurient world has given her far more leverage in the recent negotiations than she might normally have been able to expect.

A pre-nuptial agreement the couple signed before their 2004 wedding guaranteed her just $20 million [£13.1m], after ten years of marriage. But reports suggest that after a mere six years she will walk away with nearer $100m [£65.7m] in cash and assets, along with a significant cut of her ex-husband's future earnings.

Other strings will also be attached. Elin, 30, is expected to get primary custody of the two children, Sam, three, and Charlie, one. Although Woods will be entitled to spend a weekend of each month in their company, he will be forbidden from introducing them to any woman he's romantically linked to, unless he actually marries her.

Elin will largely bring the children up in her native Sweden, where they can guarantee a modicum of privacy, though she will keep their current home in Windemere Florida. Woods will move into a nearby home on Jupiter Island, and will also keep the couple's ironically-named yacht, Privacy.

She must also sign a lifetime confidentiality agreement. Wherever the divorce is formalised - and it may very well be rubber stamped by a Swedish court - she has given up the ability to give hair-raising interviews like, say, former porn star Joslyn James who went so far as to set up a website dedicated to her affair with Woods.

Negotiations have so far taken place in such secrecy that the lawyers conducting them have refused to confirm or deny their involvement. Tiger is said to have retained Thomas Sasser, an attorney from Palm Beach who is an expert in international child-custody agreements and once wrote an article entitled: “protecting your client's privacy in an age of public information.” Elin is said to have employed Walter H White, a lawyer from the London law firm McGuireWoods, which also happens to employ her twin sister Josefin.

In the absence of verifiable facts, some extravagant misinformation about the divorce settlement has made its way into the news pages. A report in The Sun earlier this week claimed that Elin would receive $750m, making it the costliest celebrity split in history. That seems unlikely, however, since Mr Woods is not thought to have $750 million to his name. According to Forbes, his career earnings topped $1 billion last year, but that was before the taxman and his agents ING, whose typical fee is 15 percent of a client's income, took their share.

“Between the condition of the original pre-nup, and the people I've been talking to, I don't see any scenario where he is going to have to settle for $750m,” said Kurt Badenhausen, an expert on sports at the magazine. “The simple fact is that Tiger Woods does not have that kind of wealth. I'd like to say we'll eventually find out what the exact settlement is. But of course they're doing their best to make sure we never do.”

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