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Heather Mills McCartney - how much should she get?

As the marriage between ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and his wife breaks down, the question arises - how much should she get of Paul's $1,500,000,000 fortune?

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Ex-Beatle, Paul McCartney, married Heather Mills in 2002. Now apparently they are set to divorce. It is customary in divorces that the spouse who had less money before the marriage claims a substantial share of the other's assets, perhaps including ongoing payments.

In this case, since Paul McCartney's worth is estimated as around $1,500,000,000 (£800,000,000), the question arises of how much Heather Mills McCartney will be entitled to.

It could be as much as half - $750,000,000 (£400,000,000). Other authorities suggest a more modest one-quarter, or $375,000,000 (£200,000,000).

So Paul McCartney wrote all the songs, and for four years of marriage Heather Mills McCartney stands to make anywhere between $375,000,000 (£200,000,000) to $750,000,000 (£400,000,000).

Right or wrong?

But there is a bigger question here. If you are a songwriter and you achieve success through hard work, perception of what the market wants, and of course a smattering of brilliance, perhaps even genius, who else will come along to take a slice out of your pie?

We have one answer already - your spouse. Or rather your ex-spouse. Write some songs, gain success and money, get married, get divorced, lose up to half of your fortune.

Other answers however may include virtually anyone you have had dealings with professionally.

As seen in the recent James Blunt case, an ex-producer may come along and say that he or she had a hand in writing some of your songs. With enough money behind the accusation, it could go to court. And in court the verdict could swing either way on clever arguments, not so much the merits of the situation.

Ex-band members also frequently decide, sometime after their period of fame and band membership, that they actually helped you write some of your songs. Apparently they contributed a line here and there, and of course they were definitely the 'inspiration' behind your greatest hits.

Even session musicians may have a claim, if the contract you signed with them was not written properly. It may happen that a song becomes successful, and a session musician could argue that it was a particular lick that they played that was the 'hook' of the song. Without that, the song would have been worthless.

Also, it isn't unknown for managers to take a share of songwriting credits, even though they couldn't even hum a tune. It's just another way of squeezing some more money out of you.

Still, if you are really successful in music, then possibly you will have plenty left after the 'non-productives' have been paid off.

Wouldn't you rather be a divorced ex-Beatle with $750,000,000 (£400,000,000) than an unsuccessful writer that no-one ever wanted to leech off?

By David Mellor Monday May 22, 2006
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