Breaking up is hard on the wallet

Getting married is one of the most expensive things most people will ever do. Even the basic essentials – which most would list as hire of venue, rings, cost of reception – can easily run into many thousands of pounds.

Add to that the fact that many people want to push the boat out as far as they can and let their imaginations – and credit cards – run wild and you have the potential for expenditure on a grand scale.

Then of course once you’re married, you will need somewhere to live, perhaps a car or two to get around… before you know it, you and your newly betrothed have spent a king’s ransom, or accumulated a debt that wouldn’t look out of place on the balance sheet of a small country.

Until divorce do us part

Marriage is a big commitment. And like all big commitments, extricating yourself is often a hugely expensive, complicated nightmare. Government figures suggest that divorce is on the increase – around one in three partnerships now ends prematurely.

It can happen to anyone, but seems even more common in the high-flying circles of celebrity-land. Here, divorce is not so much a judicial process but a battle to seize first the moral high ground, then the hard cash and assets.

Hollywood heartbreak

The latest pair to fall from the heady heights of true love are US television magician Criss Angel – real name Christopher Sarantankos – and his wife Joann Sarantakos. Lawyers for Mrs Sarantakos are alleging that Chris was carrying on an affair with film star Cameron Diaz.

One of her representatives, Dominic Barbara, stated this week that he could "show with documentary evidence that my client was still with her husband, trying to save her marriage, at the same time Cameron Diaz was dating Criss Angel".

A spokesman for Diaz has rebutted the allegations. He said that the actress had dated Mr Sarantankos only once he had already become estranged from his wife and on the understanding that there would be no complications or distress caused by the pair becoming involved.

Other recent high profile divorces include Britney Spears and Kevin Federline, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, Heather Mills and Sir Paul McCartney and of course Chantelle Houghton and Samuel Preston (perhaps not so high profile). One thing that they all have in common is that they were financially messy.

Celebrity trendsetting

However, financial haywire isn’t something that just engulfs celebrity divorce cases. It is a very costly process for all involved – and by all accounts, getting costlier. Part of the reason may be that, as the BBC puts it, "what the rich and famous do in the courts is setting precedents for the rest of us".

The price of freedom

There were around 150,000 divorces in 2006 and each one cost an average of £13,000 – that’s a lot of money being spent on lost love. A lot of the time it is the husband who loses out on the financial settlement. An AA study found that just one out of every 20 men said they came out of a divorce financially comfortable. Six out of ten men lost their homes and 20 per cent said they had been hit with ‘ crippling’ maintenance payments.

Despite this, most divorcees said that the financial hardship was worth it for the peace of mind of being independent again. Lloyd East, director of AA Savings, says: "This survey confirms that couples prefer to be poorer, happy and apart rather than comfortably off and miserable together."

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