‘A friend of mine just got divorced. He and his ex-wife split the house. He got the outside.’
This is the conventional view of divorce: the breadwinning man gets shafted by his stay-at-home wife, who gets to keep the rectory and have fun with her tennis coach. This is a long way from the modern reality.
A third of Britain’s working mothers are the main earners in their family, according to IPPR thinktank research, Who’s breadwinning in Europe. The same report found that more than two thirds (68.3%) of couple households have both parents in work.
This also redefines divorce. A woman may feel that she has worked hard to support the family while a husband has been out of work, and then be shocked to find herself forced to support him if he leaves her for another woman. Nevertheless, this is increasingly a reality for some women. Regardless of gender, one person’s affair has no impact on the financial settlement.
In most cases the court assumes a 50/50 split of assets, no matter who has paid the mortgage, contributed to the household expenses and paid the pension contributions. Equally, non-working or lower-earning spouses can claim for maintenance, whether they are men or women.
That said, child support will be considered in the level of spousal maintenance awarded. So if you are looking after the kids and working full time, it will be taken into account in the settlement.
The parent with prime responsibility for the child may need a bigger house or car, more food, for example. People contemplating divorce need to have a good look at their budget to ensure that these are reflected in the settlement they receive.
What can working women do to protect themselves if they feel that divorce may be looming? Here’s a 10-point plan.
[We don’t want to upset any guys reading this and of course these points apply universally. It is however true that stereotypes still rule and there isn’t much support out there for women who are the main breadwinners OR men who are the main carers/homemaker.]