Western Mail, 25th February 2010
Cheryl and Ashley Cole need to avoid a messy split like that of Heather Mills and Paul McCartney and follow the Madonna and Guy Ritchie model of divorcing with dignity, a Welsh divorce lawyer said last night.

Melanie Hamer said the pair must get themselves “committed family lawyers” who are determined to settle amicably.

The singer dumped her footballer husband on Tuesday following claims the England star was unfaithful during the pair’s three-and-a-half year marriage.

Having pointedly removed her wedding ring, X Factor judge Cheryl flew home after a spell in Los Angeles, while Ashley left the couple’s mansion.

Ms Hamer, 44, also pointed to Peter Andre and Katie Price’s separation as an example of the kind of acrimonious separation the couple should avoid.

The lawyer, a partner at the Cardiff-based Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice, said: “They need to take stock of what happened with Paul McCartney and Heather Mills and how wrong that went.”

Ms Hamer, who represented former Wales and Celtic star John Hartson during his divorce from ex-wife Lowri, added: “They should look at the Madonna and Guy Ritchie approach where it was all dealt with very quietly, without any great publicity and without any great acrimony.”

The Mills-McCartney divorce was one of the most unpleasant in recent history.

Mills admitted she threw water over McCartney’s lawyer, Fiona Shackleton, and described the £24.3m settlement she was awarded as “outrageous”.

And following Price’s bitter divorce from Andre, she recently remarried cage fighter Alex Reid, prompting Andre to break down live on Sky News while talking about his ex-wife and their two children, Junior and Princess.

For the past few days, Cheryl has been in LA, where she has been caught on camera in the regular company of dancer Derek Hough, 24, who appears in her latest video.

The singer, who topped the charts with Fight For This Love, stuck by Ashley after allegations of infidelity surfaced two years ago.

But further allegations that his phone had been used to send sexual photos to a glamour model and further “kiss and tells” appear to have become too great a strain on the relationship.

Relate Cymru manager Christine Jones said counselling could help prevent the divorce turning messy.

She said: “Quite often infidelity is an issue with divorce, but that can be handled with dignity and that is something that does present in counselling quite a lot.

“It’s not just infidelity alone, it’s the reasons behind it and the causes of it.”

The 29-year-old Chelsea footballer was yesterday said to have blamed the breakdown of his three-and-a-half-year marriage to Cheryl on his mother-in-law. Cheryl’s mother, Joan Callaghan, 49, moved into their £6m Surrey mansion two years ago.

Cheryl Cole is already said to be looking to buy a £2.1m villa in Hollywood.

The performer, 26, has maintained a dignified silence in recent days, letting her high-profile performance at the Brit Awards a week ago, for which she had also removed her wedding band, do the talking.

Aberystwyth divorce lawyer, Alison Evans, said the separation could be done and dusted within months and the fact the couple have no children will speed up proceedings.

“Any divorce can go through in a relatively short period of time if there’s consent on both sides.

“If there’s nothing at issue and they agree to everything there’s no need to hold the procedure up.”

Girls Aloud singer Cheryl had spoken in interviews about one day wanting to start a family with her husband. Her career hit new heights thanks to her starring role on the judging panel for ITV1’s The X Factor.

Her solo pop career has also flourished in recent months with the release of her debut album.

She is said to have told her husband she wanted the relationship to end in a simple text message.