Wales on Sunday, 27th September 2009
Cardiff City striker Michael Chopra was last night urged to pay his childhood sweetheart a whopping £3m for just five weeks of marriage – or risk an even costlier courtroom showdown.
Leading divorce lawyer Melanie Hamer said the Bluebirds star’s model wife Heather Swan could be legally entitled to 50% of her hubby’s estimated £6m fortune – because they were together for seven years and have a baby.
And Ms Hamer of Cardiff-based Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice said she would advise the City marksman to settle out of court, or end up forking out massive legal fees. Ms Hamer, who has represented a host of footballers in divorce battles, said: “I think it’s a disaster when these cases get to court because the only people who win are the lawyers. The Heather Mills and Paul McCartney case was a really good example of how not to resolve these issues. Madonna and Guy Ritchie’s split was a far better way of doing things. I certainly think Heather’s going to do really well out of this divorce, especially as they’ve got a young son.”
She said that if £25,000-a-week Chopra, who has battled a gambling addition, was her client, she would tell him: “Get a good lawyer then settle because the court costs are so huge.”
She added: “It’s stressful, especially when there are children involved, it’s time consuming and can end up in the papers.”
Goal ace Chops, 26, wed Heather, star of ITV2’s Wags Boutique, in front of 200 guests in a £150,000 ceremony at Orchardleigh House in Somerset last June.
But the pair clashed just hours after taking their vows and were still rowing at breakfast the next morning.
They argued throughout their Capri honeymoon with ex-Newcastle United forward Chopra returning to the UK and Heather flying on to Barbados.
They have been married for more than a year but are said to have been separated for months.
Ms Hamer said “Divorce courts in this country are some of the most generous in the world when it comes to wives. The starting point is equality and there are things that can shift the payout up or down. Children always come first and the court wants to make sure the child is looked after in a decent house and, if the child’s with the mother, that she has plenty of money to live on. In a long marriage the wife will do better than in a short marriage. But in a case where they’ve ‘moved seamlessly from cohabiting into marriage’ the court will look at the length of the period of cohabitation.”
Ms Hamer said if the ex-Sunderland star and his wife lived together for all or part of the seven years they were together before tying the knot, that would count in the court’s judgment.
Just last month Chops who cost Cardiff £4m this summer, claimed he was “the happiest man in the world”.
He told Wales on Sunday: “Everything’s going fine, on the pitch and off. I went to America for four weeks with Heather and the baby Sebastian and enjoyed every moment of it. Both Heather and the baby are still up in Newcastle as she’s working on finishing her website. But whenever we get time off we see each other. Once Heather’s website and business is up and running they’ll stay down here and we’ll settle here as I have a three year contract. So things are looking great. Football is going well and my life in general is going well.”
But now it looks like the relationship is finished for good.
Neither Chopra nor Heather were available for comment last night.