Former Beatle Paul McCartney and his estranged wife Heather Mills will take their acrimonious divorce battle to open court next February, a court source said on Friday, after attempts to reach a private settlement failed.
The source said a five-day hearing had been scheduled with a fall-back date later in 2008 if the February hearing failed to produce an agreement.
British media have speculated that McCartney could have to part with between $40-100 million in a final settlement, including a one-off lump sum plus annual payments.
The Evening Standard newspaper reported on Friday that the stumbling block during Thursday’s lengthy meeting had been Mills’ refusal to accept a gagging order as part of the deal.
Her spokesman declined to comment, and no one was immediately available to comment from the McCartney camp.
The settlement could set a new record for a contested divorce award in British courts. In August last year, insurance magnate John Charman was ordered to pay out 48 million pounds to his wife after they divorced in 2003 after 27 years of marriage.
McCartney, 65, married Mills in 2002. They have a daughter, Beatrice, who turns four later this month.
The split has been played out in the full glare of the tabloid media.
Mills works for several charities, including those involved in banning landmines and preventing cruelty to animals.