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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2011

Royal prenup suggested in case of unhappy ending

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Prince William and fiancee Kate Middleton are to marry April 29. British divorce lawyers have called a prenuptial agreement between the two a 'no-brainer,' but Prince William's stance on the matter is unknown. Prince William and fiancee Kate Middleton are to marry April 29. British divorce lawyers have called a prenuptial agreement between the two a 'no-brainer,' but Prince William's stance on the matter is unknown.
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LONDON -- British divorce lawyers have words of warning for Prince William: Not all fairy tales have happy endings.

The prince is to wed his longtime love, Kate Middleton, April 29, but if history is any guide, divorce lawyers say the second in line to the British throne would be well advised to sign a prenuptial agreement.

"It's an absolute statistical no-brainer that a prenuptial agreement would be highly beneficial in this case," said divorce lawyer James Stewart from the firm that handled the multimillion-dollar divorce case between Madonna and director Guy Ritchie.

Britain's royal family has been plagued by a string of failed marriages.

Three of Queen Elizabeth II's four children have been divorced, and Charles Spencer, Prince William's uncle on his mother's side, has two ex-wives.

Prince William's office declined to comment on whether the future king might sign a premarital contract.

Although prenuptial agreements are common in the United States, in Britain they remain rare for most couples.

British courts agreed to recognize them only in the last year after a slew of high-profile divorce awards gave London a reputation as the "divorce capital of the world."

Mr. Stewart said Britain's royals need to recognize that when it comes to divorce, they're just like commoners under U.K. law.

And with large amounts of royal wealth likely tied up in trusts, which can be hard to tap, it's important to decide on the details now, just in case, he says.

"In the 21st century, there is a real need for any couple in the public arena to enter into a properly drawn up prenup," Mr. Stewart said.

One need look no further than the split between Prince William's parents, Princess Diana and Prince Charles.

The prince's former financial adviser, Geoffrey Bignell, told Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper in 2004 that Diana "took him to the cleaners," and said Prince Charles handed over his entire personal fortune -- widely reported to be more than $27 million today -- when their marriage ended after 15 years in 1996.

But it is by no means certain an ex-wife will clean up.

After her 1996 divorce from Prince Andrew after 10 years of marriage, Sarah Ferguson complained that her reported $1.3 million settlement was meager. Years later, she is believed to have hired Princess Diana's lawyer to negotiate a much bigger divorce settlement after dealing with crushing debt.

But even that history doesn't mean the royals will think twice: Prince Charles is widely reported to have opted to go without a prenup when he wed Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005.



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