The comedian and Little Britain creator, Matt Lucas, has announced that he is splitting up with his partner of six years after getting "married" in a high-profile civil partnership ceremony 18 months ago.
The couple, who shared a £1.5m home in north-west London, are the first gay celebrity couple to "divorce" since the civil partnership laws were introduced and their split could be seen as a test case. Some have speculated that Lucas could end up paying his former partner millions of pounds following the break-up.
Lucas has employed the same high-profile law company – Mishcon de Reya - used by Heather Mills and Diana, Princess of Wales, in their divorce battles.
In a joint statement Lucas and his partner, Kevin McGee, said: "It is with sadness that Matt and Kevin announce that their relationship has come to an end. Their separation is amicable."
Lucas is believed to have earned £6m in 2006 from the BBC and other deals for his comedy work, and his personal fortune is estimated to stand anywhere between £10m and £20m. Under conventional divorce law, Mr McGee is entitled to half of this money but it is unclear what he is entitled to under a civil partnership arrangement.
James Stewart, a divorce lawyer, said: "A civil partnership is a marriage in all but name. Couples have the same rights and responsibilities and that goes for the finances as well."
It is unclear who will retain the house. They had been together for three years and were engaged for seven months before their civil ceremony. Their service was described as low key, taking place at Home House, a private members' club in London, but the reception, at Banqueting House in Whitehall, was one of the biggest showbiz events of the year – a lavish pantomime-themed event with a host of British and Hollywood celebrities who came in fancy dress.
Lucas, 34, wore an elaborate Aladdin costume while McGee, who is a television producer, turned up as Prince Charming.
Guests at the reception included the singer Sir Elton John, the actresses Barbara Windsor and Courtney Love, and Lucas's Little Britain comedy partner, David Walliams.
Lucas, who is best known among his fans as "the only gay in the village" after one of his most popular catchphrases in Little Britain, said at the time that he was "very much in love". He said: "We're going to have a civil partnership, or marriage, or whatever you like to call it. We are very much in love, but also it's important that gay couples have the same rights as straight couples."
The couple "married" shortly after civil partnership laws enabling same-sex legal unions came into force in December 2005.
They met in a nightclub in 2002 and became engaged in 2006. Lucas, who said little about his partner before the ceremony, except that "he's beardy... I love him very much". He added that he thought Mr McGee resembled the pop singer, Daniel Bedingfield, which is why he called him "Baby Bedingfield".
Lucas grew up in north London and achieved fame alongside his comedy partner, Walliams, with his sketch show which was originally produced for radio but was later screened on prime time television and then went out on tour. An American version of the show is in the process of being made by Lucas and Walliams for HBO.
Many of the often grotesque characters in the show had their own catchphrases and ranged from an unemployed teenage mother, Vicky Pollard, to a supposedly wheelchair-bound man and an obese woman at a health farm who became household names.
Such was its appeal that at its height, a spate of celebrities accepted cameo roles in a one-off stage version, including the model Kate Moss and the actor Denis Waterman. A number of notable figures also appeared as characters in the TV show including the comedians Dawn French and Rob Brydon.
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