Heather Mills and Sir Paul McCartney may be the most famous divorcees on the lips of the nation, but a family law specialist says the region should wise up to more important movements afoot in family law.
Tara Fishwick, a member of Higgs & Sons' family department, said: "The actions of Susan Crossley last week, who was described as a 'career divorcee' by her most recent ex-husband, are likely to leave a larger impact on family law, than the Mills McCartney case."
Susan Crossley, aged 50, withdrew her claim against her estranged husband, property developer Stuart Crossley, aged 62, who is worth £45 million, on the eve of a court hearing, creating an important boost to pre-nuptial agreement holders countrywide.
After three previous marriages to wealthy husbands Mrs Crossley had accumulated wealth to the tune of £18 million when she met Mr Crossley in the summer of 2005.
By early 2006 the couple were married after a whirlwind romance. However before the wedding day the parties entered into a pre-nuptial agreement that neither would claim against the other should the marriage fail. Fourteen months later, Mrs Crossley was treading a familiar path when the relationship ended.
"Pre-nuptial agreements are not legally binding in England and Wales, but have previously been seen to be highly influential and upheld by the courts," said Ms Fishwick. "Mrs Crossley had tried to argue that Mr Crossley had failed to disclose every aspect of his wealth when the agreement was signed and claimed he had not divulged tens of millions in offshore accounts.
"However, in December 2007, Mrs Crossley's case hit a setback when Lord Justice Thorpe, the deputy head of Family Justice, heard the matter in the Court of Appeal. He stressed the 'magnetic importance' of the pre-nuptial agreement. A further hearing was set for mid February to look at the pre-nuptial agreement, but it was given a 'streamlined' one-day time estimate which was described by Mrs Crossley's solicitors as a 'knockout blow' as the short hearing meant her claim would probably be thrown out."
On the eve of the hearing Mrs Crossley withdrew her application, demonstrating that she accepted that she stood no chance of claiming against her most recent husband due to the couple's pre-nuptial agreement.
Ms Fishwick believes that the case has further strengthened the legal position of pre-nuptial agreements.
"This case shows an important example of agreements being upheld. Now society needs to catch up and take advantage of the protection pre-nuptial agreements can afford. Sir Paul is no doubt kicking himself that he didn't save himself the millions he is likely to have to give Heather Mills by uttering those magic words six years ago - let's get a pre-nup!"