Little Britain's Matt Lucas gets a ‘divorce’
Britain's first celebrity gay divorce was cleared by the courts yesterday when the comedian Matt Lucas was granted a legal separation from his partner in a case reported to be worth £15m.
At an uncontested hearing at the High Court, the Little Britain star's civil partnership to the television producer Kevin McGee was dissolved on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour.
Mr McGee, 31, who admitted unreasonable behaviour, met Mr Lucas, 34, at a nightclub more than four years ago. He is expected to receive up to £1m from the television star's estimated £15m fortune on condition that he signs a gagging order stopping him publicly disclosing any details about their short "marriage".
Mr Lucas married Mr McGee in a civil partnership in December 2006 and they moved into a £1.5m house in St John's Wood, north-west London.
But friends said that the Little Britain star's tough filming schedule, especially the time spent in America on the US version of Little Britain, placed strain on the relationship so that the couple were seeing less and less of each other. Finally the pressures became too much and they decided to go their separate ways.
The two men instructed lawyers from two of the best known matrimonial firms in the country. Mischcon de Reya, which acted for Diana, Princess of Wales, is advising Mr Lucas, while Withers, the equally high-profile private client law firm, has been instructed by Mr McGee.
Legal experts said that the dissolution of their partnership was the first high-profile, big-money divorce involving a same-sex couple that had come before the courts since parliament brought in laws to permit same-sex marriages in December 2005.
Helen Cankett, a matrimonial divorce law expert at the Cheltenham-based firm Rickerbys, who has advised gay clients on matrimonial issues, said that the shortness of the civil partnership would mean that the division of the couple's assets would not be split down the middle. She said: "I would expect Matt's lawyers to argue that there should be a deviation from the normal starting point of equality of assets. The court would also have to decide how much wealth had been created during the partnership and what contribution each party had made."
The rules on civil partnership dissolution are broadly the same as those for divorce and a legal separation can be secured much more quickly if one side admits unreasonable behaviour. The alternative is for the couple to wait for two years before petitioning the courts. There is no separate ground for adultery in civil partnership dissolutions because the law says this must involve a man and a woman.
Ms Cankett also said that it was not possible to say how serious Mr McGee's unreasonable behaviour might have been as it was a subjective test and was often cited as a means to securing a quick divorce. It is not known whether the couple signed a pre-nuptial agreement.
When the couple met, Mr McGee worked for Carbon Media, a branch of a larger television company called Princess Productions, before landing a job as a producer with the Comic Relief team at the BBC TV headquarters in Wood Lane. Mr Lucas, who co-stars with David Walliams in Little Britain, also had strong links with Comic Relief.
Neither Mishcon nor Withers would comment on the granting of the decree nisi yesterday.