The popular press is very keen to report on high profile divorce cases. You know the ones, Russian oligarch’s wife obtains settlement of £2 million a year for the rest of her life…and she’s only 28!
Back in the real world, where the vast majority of divorcing couples live, what is the reality?
Some of the issues that a judge would take into account are:
The welfare of children. This must be considered first.
The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities of the parties.
The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each party has and the potential to increase income.
The Law Commission has suggested that the law should be changed to be more specific, that there should be a set formula. However, I would disagree. As a divorce solicitor who has been practising for 23 years I have used the same law all of that time. When everything else is constantly changing this piece of law has kept up with society because it is flexible.
No two cases are the same and no two clients are the same. Consider the following.
Sandra and Tony are divorcing as are Rachel and Andy. In each case the parties are all 52 years of age and both couples have been married for 15 years. They each have two children aged 12 and 16, and each couple has a home worth £200,000 with no mortgage. In each case one partner earns £30,000 and the other £40,000. So a simple formula would calculate the same settlement for each couple.
However, what if Sandra had arthritis that was going to force her to stop working in three year’s time?
What if one of the children had a long term disability which meant that they would never be able to live independently?
Do all four adults work in the public or private sector?
Are they on final salary pension schemes?
Are any of them in the police force or armed services as they can retire earlier with a good pension.
The situations are not the same. As an experienced family lawyer I would pick out the strongest features of a client’s case and advance them. Using the legal criteria listed above, how do you think you would advance your own case?
Often the higher earner will give the lower earner a greater share of the equity in their home. In return they will not then have to pay any maintenance. The lower earner must have enough money to be able to maintain the house for this to work.
If one party seeks maintenance then it must be for reasonable needs. As you can imagine, a North East judge had very little sympathy for the lady who chose not to work, had no children at home and stated that she needed £300.00 per month to buy underwear! The Husband worked offshore in some appalling conditions seven days per week. The judge ordered short term reduced maintenance to give the lady time to find a job, and presumably enough time to sell her vast collection of underwear!