Divorce costs former Beatle McCartney $60m (+video, photos)

LONDON - A British court has ordered former Beatle Paul McCartney to pay his estranged wife Heather Mills 24.3 million pounds (NZ$60.8 million) after an acrimonious divorce battle.

The settlement was only a fifth of the sum she had sought but she still ended up with the equivalent of about NZ$42,500 for each day of her four-year marriage to the pop icon.

Speaking after the judge's ruling, Mills said: "I am so glad it is over. It is an incredible result in the end.

"We are very, very pleased," she added. "I am so, so happy with it." McCartney declined to comment.

McCartney, 65, married the former model and charity campaigner Mills, 40, in 2002 but they separated four years later, blaming media intrusion into their private lives. They have a daughter, Beatrice, aged four.

Following one of the most bitter divorce battles in showbusiness history, the couple failed to reach an agreement after six days in court last month, leaving the judge to set the final figure.

Mills criticized McCartney's lawyer Fiona Shackleton, accusing her of handling the case badly.

She said Shackleton, who also represented heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles in his divorce from Princess Diana, "has called me many, many names before even meeting me, when I was in a wheelchair".

Mills, who sacked her lawyer and represented herself in court, urged would-be divorcees to do the same. "You can be a litigating person," she said. "You'd save yourself a fortune."

Justice Hugh Bennett, giving details of the settlement, said: "She sought an award of almost 125 million pounds. Sir Paul proposed the wife should exit the marriage with assets of 15.8 million pounds inclusive of any lump sum award.

"The judgment decided that the husband should pay the wife a lump sum of 16.5 million pounds, which together with her assets of 7.8 million pounds means that she exits her marriage with total assets of 24.3 million pounds."

The split was fought out under a remorseless media spotlight with McCartney, a founder of the world's most famous pop group, pitted against the outspoken Mills, target of lurid tales in the press about her colorful past.

The court ruled that the judgment be made public, but stayed publication pending Mills' appeal against it being made public.

Mills, speaking to a phalanx of reporters on the steps of London's High Court, said she was appealing "because the judgment involves private secure matters of my daughter".

Referring to what their daughter would receive, Mills said: "Beatrice only gets 35,000 pounds a year. So obviously she's meant to travel B Class while her father travels A class, but obviously I will pay for that."

Asked if she now planned to move abroad, Mills said: "I can't leave England. I always wanted to keep my daughter near her father. Believe me if I tried to go, he would have an injunction on me in a second."

- REUTERS

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