Celebs Play Hardball During Divorce, Custody Battles

Celebrities know how to play hardball — especially when it comes to divorce and custody battles.

From Alec Baldwin's bitter divorce from Kim Basinger, to Britney Spears and Kevin Federline's courtroom drama, Hollywood is no stranger to the marital woes of the rich and famous.

And the latest high-profile split to splash headlines — that of former Beatle Paul McCartney and his ex-wife Heather Mills — is, so far, proving to be just as nasty, just as manipulative and just as newsworthy as its predecessors.

Mills, who did the rounds on British and American talk shows earlier this month, told "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer that she has considered suicide because of the negative media attention — she said she has been called a "whore" — and that she fears for her safety.

Mills is asking McCartney for his U.K. estate, because, she says, the home's extra security will protect her and the couple's 4-year-old daughter, Beatrice.

But according to the U.K.'s News of the World, McCartney isn't going down without a fight.

He told the publication that if Mills fears so much for her life — as she has told the press several times — Beatrice will be safer with him. McCartney now seeks full custody of his daughter.

While several divorce lawyers told ABCNEWS.com that divorce proceedings can get ugly, whether you're famous or not, many agreed that the games celebrities play, when money and children are at stake, are truly eye-opening.

Nanny Becomes Character Witness

"Celebrity divorces are uglier, in the sense that the whole world is looking at them," said Raoul Felder, a New York-based celebrity divorce lawyer. "They have money to indulge in terms of paying lawyers and getting experts to come in. Celebrities are bottomless pits of money, combined oftentimes with limited IQs."

Embarrassing their one-time significant other, Felder told ABCNEWS.com, is a commonly used tactic by celebrities during their divorce proceedings.

Celebrities will go to all lengths to try and ruin each other's reputations, hoping that, even if the divorce doesn't go their way, it'll still be possible that their spouse's career will suffer.

"Celebrities will get the nanny to give declarations against one parent, or have neighbors say the other one drinks, or smokes pot, or takes some other kind of drug," said Alexandra Leicher, a family law arbitrator and private judge, who has worked on celebrity cases for more than 35 years.

"Or, they'll say the children are being threatened, because of the paparazzi, and will argue they can better protect them from the [cameras]. It's gamesmanship."

Leonard Garber, another divorce lawyer for the rich and famous, said he once worked with a client who went as far as paying the housekeeper double to ensure her allegiance during the divorce. The client — whom he declined to name — also paid a private detective to watch his ex-wife's house, so that he could prove she was using drugs while the couple's children were at home.

Money, divorce experts say, plays a huge role in the extent to which celebrities will drag out their marital disputes.

"Celebrities, by and large, have the money to fight [in divorce and custody battles]," said Leicher. "It could be a million-and-a-half on either side in attorney fees, and still, wasting time [playing games] is not an issue."

Leicher added that one can never be sure how sincere parents are during custody battles, and whether they are truly concerned about their children.

McCartney and Mills' Game: Who Will Win?

With Mills' public outbursts and McCartney's unwavering pursuit for sole custody, celebrity lawyers have, so far, been unable to come to a consensus on who they believe will come out on top.

"Although it goes against conventional public opinion, I am sensitive to what [Mills] is saying here," said Felder. "McCartney has unlimited funds to spend on security, and she does not. Exposure is one humiliating game, but frankly, I'm not convinced this is a game she is playing. It's more on [McCartney's] part."

Others say that Mills has made a terrible mistake by airing what many refer to as her "dirty laundry."

"Mills has put her foot in her mouth by doing those interviews," said Stacy D. Phillips, a prominent celebrity divorce lawyer, who advises her clients to keep quiet about their divorces. "I think the world idolizes Paul McCartney, and as long as he keeps his head above it all, he's going to continue to be favored by the public.

"People won't like [Mills] right off the bat because she's criticizing an icon," said Phillips.

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