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Oh, for the Days of Divorce with Dignity

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The headlines here recently seem to have all been about sex -- and costly, illicit sex at that.

First there are the lurid details exposed in the divorce trial between model Christie Brinkley, 54, and her fourth husband Peter Cook, 46, who allegedly cheated on her with an 18-year-old and had a penchant for looking at pornographic websites. We now know everything about life in the Brinkley-Cook household, from what they ate for breakfast to what happened when Alexa Ray, 22, Brinkley's daughter from her marriage to Billy Joel, flooded the shower.

Then we get headlines about Madonna receiving New York Yankees star player A-Rod (real name Alex Rodriguez) late at night, while her husband Guy Ritchie is far away; meanwhile, A-Rod's wife, Cynthia, is off in Paris with Lenny Kravitz.

The salaciousness has reached a level where I feel I need to wash my hands after reading the papers. What is actually more interesting is the financial repercussions. The Cook-Brinkley case is in court because, rather than settle privately, which most people do, Cook is contesting their prenuptial agreement. This, we are learning, is something you can do quite successfully.

For example, if one of you is a better parent, that turns into a major bargaining chip (Cook claims Brinkley was a self-obsessed mother, primping instead of ironing); also, if the pre-nup was signed in a hurry, that's a problem. And so forth.

Reportedly Madonna and Guy Ritchie did not have a pre-nup; if it comes to divorce for them, she will be sweating at the thought of what could happen to her estimated $846 million fortune. Also, if it is proven that she's had an affair, and if he did not, that will almost certainly cost her. Small wonder that she is reported to have hired Fiona Shackleton, who successfully saved Paul McCartney from halving his $1.5 billion fortune with his ex-wife Heather Mills.

Yet the process of going to trial is so undignified that you have to wonder why these people can't sit down with a mediator and work it all out.

Everyone knows that when marriages break down, tempers flare. But these couples have children old enough to read the headlines -- or hear their friends talk about them at school. Shouldn't any divorcing couple be thinking of their children's welfare first and foremost?

If they were, they wouldn't be in court -- and I could read about more important things in the morning papers.

This piece was originally published by the London Evening Standard

Related:
Vicky Ward discussing the effect of divorce on business brands on CNBC's Power Lunch.