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Menopause, divorce and the law

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Divorce on Tuesday, January 30th, 2024

It’s a condition that affects half the population and can have symptoms so debilitating that some sufferers are unable to work. Indeed, 10% of women aged 45-55 have left the workforce as a result of menopause symptoms, according to a 2022 study conducted by the Fawcett Society and Channel 4.

This can have a severe impact on perimenopausal and menopausal women’s finances, putting them at a significant disadvantage compared with their male peers. And, when it comes to the divorce court, a lack of recognition of the severity of the menopause can leave women at a severe financial disadvantage.

The link between menopause and relationship breakdown

A lack of understanding of the impact of the menopause on every aspect of a woman’s life can also place severe strain on relationships, with a 2022 survey finding that over 70% of women blame the menopause for the breakdown of their marriage. Some also said that it led to increased arguments and even domestic abuse.

And the fact the average age of a divorcing woman is around 44 – just when menopause symptoms can start to show for some women – means that many women face being left financially vulnerable just when they need support the most.

Menopause and the ‘meal ticket for life’

In recent years, there has been a significant shift away from ongoing spousal maintenance for wives, ostensibly in recognition of women’s increasing social and financial independence. Often known by the rather condescending term of ‘meal ticket for life’, spousal maintenance conjures an image of a gold-digging ex-wife out for all she can get. But does the new ‘clean break’ mentality take account of the menopause? Unlikely.

According to Farhana Shahzady, founder of the Family Law Menopause Project, “Menopause and biology do not appear as factors to be considered by the court, although the court can take into account age and disability more generally. There is next to no case law on menopause being considered, even though most women will experience menopause as one of the worst and most debilitating periods in their lives, hence why droves of women are leaving the workplace.”

All too often, assessments of a woman’s ability to earn a living post-divorce, which are then used to calculate financial settlements and ongoing maintenance payments, fail to take the menopause into account. This has a knock-on impact on divorced women’s ability to pay into their pension, build up their savings, and generally enjoy financial stability in their later years.

What can be done?

At Attwaters Jameson Hill, we believe that nobody should have to be financially disadvantaged due to a health condition beyond their control.

If you are getting divorced and are in menopause, our sympathetic and understanding lawyers are here to support you. If you are concerned, for example, about your ability to work due to your symptoms and the impact this might have on your future finances, we can help ensure that this is factored into your divorce settlement.

Please feel free to get in touch for a confidential chat about your circumstances on 0330 221 8855 or email us at enquiries@attwaters.co.uk. We look forward to hearing from you.

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