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Katy and Russell: Irreconcilable Differences and the Laws of Love

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The recent demise of the marriage of popstress Katy Perry and the infamous lothario turned devoted husband Russell Brand spurred inevitable public commentary and debate with media outlets ruminating over (and in some cases, dare I say almost celebrating) the latest celebrity marriage to fail.

So newsworthy was the announcement of their divorce that within minutes the twosome became a national trending topic on Twitter. Unsurprising perhaps when one considers their collective followers amount to around 17 million (Katy clearly the bigger star at an impressive 13.5 million and her soon to be ex-husband at a very respectable but notably lesser count of around 3.5 million).

Their high profile romance and relatively quick engagement was followed by an extravagant, spiritual wedding ceremony at the Taj Mahal (followed by a legal marriage in California) and many red carpet appearances together as well as gushing comments to the media about their passionate amour for one another, including the decision not to enter into a pre-nuptial agreement with Brand reasoning that their love 'is a beautiful thing and I want to preserve it'.

Ironically (and somewhat excruciatingly) as recently as December 2011 when quizzed about his marriage on the Ellen Show he told host De Generes "I'm married to Katy. Perpetually, until death do us part was the pledge and I am still alive". Yet only a few weeks later he announced their split and filed for divorce in Los Angeles citing irreconcilable differences.

In the days following the announcement there has been much speculation as to the reasons behind the split and also the financial implications for both parties. To put it more bluntly what everyone wants is for their dirty laundry to be aired so we can all get a good whiff. What went wrong, whose fault was it, how much is it going to cost Ms Perry and how much will Rusty Rockets make from this love affair gone awry?

As we know Brand filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, which is the term used in American law for a 'no fault' divorce.

Irreconcilable differences are largely defined as differences between spouses that are considered sufficiently severe to make married life together more or less impossible. On a practical basis, courts rarely, if ever, inquire into what the differences actually are, and usually grant a divorce as long as the party seeking the divorce states the couple has irreconcilable differences, as Brand has done.

Interestingly it is the same basis upon which Kim Kardashian relied when filing for divorce from Kris Humphries after their 72 day marriage and appears to be increasingly cited for divorces by both celebrity and non-celebrity couples.

There have been numerous reports debating the payout which Brand will receive ranging from $20 million to $30 million and dramatic statements of him being entitled to half the I Kissed A Girl star's fortune, which is estimated by Forbes to stand at approximately $45 million.

However these reports are based on the assumption that there will be a straightforward split of assets and income which is somewhat of a sweeping statement misnomer.

So what will Brand be entitled to and what do irreconcilable differences really mean in these circumstances? As the lesser earning partner Rusty Rockets may be entitled to half of Katy's earnings during their marriage. And given what a successful year she has had, which coincided with their first year of marriage, it is likely that she earned a significant amount of money and it follows that his portion will be substantial.

The state of California is a community property state. This means that unless provided otherwise by statute (or mutual declaration to Court) all property, acquired whilst the parties were married is community property. So whatever luxurious pads they purchased during their marriage will need to be split between the parties 50/50. Additionally the lesser earning partner can be entitled to spousal support but the court will take into account various factors including the needs of that partner to keep then within the same standard of living that was established during the marriage, the ability of the partner to seek self-supporting employment, the assets and obligations of each and also with regards to separate property acquired before marriage or gifted or bequeathed to either party during marriage.

Brand is undoubtedly a star in his own right with an estimated fortune of around $15 million and strong future earning potential so it is unlikely he will receive (or indeed seek) spousal support, but given the above he is entitled to and may well be awarded a double figure million dollar sum either through an amicable settlement or via court order.

But let's go back to those irreconcilable differences. If reports are to be believed then Russell and Katy were spending very little time together, had different ideas of how to have fun (he the recovering addict relishing the quieter life and she enjoying the fruits of her rising star and apparently partying hard at various star studded events) and had different goals and timeframes, she (understandably, one may say) wanting to maximize her career opportunities whereas he appeared to be ready for children.

Whilst these are all admittedly 'reports' from third parties and sources close to the couple it isn't difficult to believe them to be true. It is astonishing to me as lawyer that given the team of professionals that surround such stars that they weren't strongly encouraged - aka arm twisted - into entering into a pre-nuptial agreement, but what is almost more astonishing to me as a life coach is that they hadn't appeared to have discussed their values, beliefs, goals and lifestyles properly before entering into marriage and yet expected their union to have longevity.

It is the same as with Kim Kardashian and her soon to be ex Kris Humphries, who in a recent episode of Kim and Kourtney Take New York were seen having a serious argument when Humphries professed his vision and desire to live in Minnesota and raise children much to the horror of Kim Kardashian, who said she would never live in his hometown Minnesota.

Unlike many sceptics I don't think that their marriage was a fraud and believe there was genuine love and hope in the union, but it does beggar belief that they managed to organise such a hoopla of a wedding with all the attention to detail that would have involved yet failed to discuss something as fundamental as which city they would live and raise a family in.

And the same applies to Katy and Russell. It may have seemed romantic to have dismissed a pre-nuptial agreement as 'tainting their pure love' and arranging a spiritual wedding replete with elephants. But the reality is it was short sighted and misjudged.

Hopefully they will be able to disentangle their union without too much legal wrangling but the fact is a pre-nuptial agreement would have made things much simpler. And if we take things one step further back some type of pre marriage counselling or coaching could have even made them realise that as much as they were in lust and had a strong connection, in all reality they probably didn't stand much of a chance at a long and successful marriage.

When considering lifelong commitments such as marriage and children, there are not just legal laws to consider but also spiritual laws to bear in mind. If more people did so (and I don't just mean celebrities, but also many ordinary people as divorce rates on the whole are higher than ever before) then perhaps there would be many more truly happy ever after endings with relationships and marriages with longevity and sell by dates no less than the end of this lifetime.

Now call me old fashioned, but I think that's real romance and true love.

Ambi Sitham is a lawyer and life coach and the author of The Laws of Love (contact Sarah Williams at Ed Victor Agency for further details)

www.ambisitham.com

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