I am sure that I have referred before in this blog to divorce leaving one party (usually the husband) feeling that he has had to pay too much to the other party (usually the wife) and who in turn feels that she has received too little.
English divorce law is based on a concept of fairness and although this is measured against a yardstick of equality it does not automatically mean that assets are divided equally. In other words an unequal division can and invariably will be a fair outcome for the divorcing couple.
In many relationships the household may have depended on one partner (frequently but not always the husband) to work long hours to earn the money that has provided the home and other essentials for the family. The other partner (often the wife) may have given up a career, reduced her hours or prospects of advancement in order to care for children and the home, as well perhaps as moving from place to place in order to accompany the husband as he moves up the corporate ladder.
Post-divorce, rarely therefore will the dependent spouse have the earning capacity of the primary breadwinner. Unless assets are redistributed in unequal shares there may be unfairness.
The bread maker’s earnings provide a mortgage capacity beyond that of his spouse and whilst maintenance may help to bridge the gap, an unequal division of the financial pot is invariably required as well or instead. The main earner will potentially have accrued a pension, denied to his spouse, and there may need to be a redistribution of this, or a cash payment in lieu, in order to achieve a fair outcome. If however the couple are in a position where the primary earner has a final salary pension and the spouse has access only to an open-market money purchase scheme, to achieve equality of pension benefits again an unequal division or a payment representing more than half of the cash equivalent value of the scheme could be required.
Depending from which perspective one is examining the proposed terms of settlement is it any wonder that both can feel aggrieved?
Many the men who believe that they are being denied a fair return on the effort they have put in and many too the women who believe that they are being inadequately compensated for all that they have given up.
Regardless however of the extent to which the law seeks to redress the inequality that exists, only one thing is certain: as time moves on and circumstances intervene, the means of the former husband and wife are unlikely ever to be equal.