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Madonna, Ritchie get prelim divorce decree

The show-business marriage that began in a Scottish castle came to an end in a drab London courtroom Friday as Madonna and Guy Ritchie were granted a preliminary decree of divorce.

The case of “Ciccone M.L. v Ritchie G.S.” was one of 17 decrees granted by Judge Caroline Reid in a hearing that lasted just a few minutes.

Papers signed by another judge and released by the court said Madonna petitioned for divorce on the basis of Ritchie’s “unreasonable behavior,” but did not elaborate. The judge ruled that he did not need to apply family law in the case — meaning that he accepted an agreement reached by the couple over their assets and children.

The divorce can become final after six weeks and a day.

British news media reported, without identifying the sources of their information, that the couple had reached a settlement that would see the pop superstar keep the majority of her estimated 300 million pound ($445 million) fortune and share custody with Ritchie of their two children: Rocco, 8, and David Banda, 3, who was adopted from Malawi in 2006.

Madonna, 50, has a 12-year-old daughter, Lourdes, from a previous relationship with personal trainer Carlos Leon. She reportedly will live with Madonna.

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Requests for comment from representatives for the couple were not returned.

The couple appear to have avoided an expensive courtroom battle like the one between former Beatle Paul McCartney and model Heather Mills. Mills has said the media coverage of the rancorous divorce had pushed her to the brink of suicide; McCartney compared the process to going through hell.

“Most couples do manage to do what Madonna and Guy Ritchie have done, and sort out issues of assets and children among themselves,” said David Allison, a lawyer with London firm Family Law in Partnership. “If they can’t it has to go before a judge at a final hearing and the whole process can go on for a year and be very messy.”

Madonna and Ritchie, 40, director of “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” married in December 2000 in a secrecy-shrouded ceremony at Skibo Castle in the Scottish Highlands attended by Sting, Gwyneth Paltrow, Donatella Versace and Stella McCartney.

Madonna — “Madge” to the British press — and her filmmaker husband soon became rich tabloid fodder in England, where they lived. The pop star seemed to take to English life, spending much of her time at the couple’s 1,200-acre (480 hectare) country estate in southwest England, and to some ears, adopting a slight British accent.

But in recent years, reports began to accumulate that they were on the rocks. Over the summer, Madonna was linked — unfairly, she said — to the breakup of New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez and his ex-wife Cynthia.

Madonna and Ritchie announced last month they were divorcing. They own homes in London, Los Angeles and New York as well as the rural English retreat.

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