When a marriage goes sour, the process of divorce becomes increasingly more complicated when the couple's net worth is in the stratosphere. The absence of an official prenuptial agreement, differences in international law and the circumstances surrounding of the breakup can result in large sums being paid out in the divorce settlement.
In 2012, perhaps the most high-profile divorce announcement was between celebrity couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Although Cruise has stated publicly that he is “deeply saddened” by the divorce filing, there may be a silver lining for the Mission Impossiblestar. With some estimates place Cruise’s net worth at upwards of $250 million, he may only stand to lose a small portion of his wealth in the divorce, thanks to a prenuptial agreement.
According to publicly available details in the agreement, Holmes is only eligible to get $3 million for every year she was married to Cruise, which would be between $15-$18 million. On top of this, Holmes is likely to get the couple’s Beverly Hills mansion, worth approximately $35 million, along with potential child support and a share of the income generated from projects the couple worked on together during their marriage. Without the prenup, Cruise may have been on the hook for half of his wealth, depending on the state in which the divorce proceedings occur.
Some high net worth individuals, however, aren’t so lucky: although the divorce of Cruise and Holmes will be quite expensive, some of the world’s most wealthy people have seen their net worth cut in half by a divorce settlement, with some passing the billion-dollar mark.
Although most settlements don't get finalized until well after the divorce takes place, there is always speculation when a high net worth divorce is on the horizon, as was the case when Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren went through their highly-public divorce. In the case of Woods, there was originally speculation that the settlement could reach $750 million, although in the end, the actual figure was considerably less.
So, what are the biggest divorce settlements and who has paid the most? There have been several in the past 12 months that have cracked the top list, although they all leave the Cruise-Holmes divorce in their dust, as far as divorce settlements go. Click ahead for the full list.
By Paul Toscano
Updated 4 July 2012