Climate change in the divorce court

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted on Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

It has long been the role of the courts (and, increasingly in recent times, collaborative lawyers, mediators and arbitrators) to find a financial settlement that is as fair as possible to both parties in a divorce.


One way or another, a settlement must be found, whether mutually agreed or by direction of the court. Inevitably, each spouse’s view of fairness may differ from the other’s, but prolonged disagreement means higher legal costs and extra stress.

Since taking a divorce case to court can be expensive, many Attwaters Jameson Hill clients prefer non-confrontational options such as collaborative law. There are still differences to resolve, but the process can be less costly and less stressful.

Cases that are decided by judges tend to involve the very wealthy, especially those cases that are reported in the national media. They may seem remote from the splits of ordinary couples, but decisions in big cases can influence smaller settlements too.

An article in The Daily Telegraph recently highlighted a rising trend, a change of climate in judges’ approach to divorce settlements. Rich wives in so-called ‘meal ticket’ divorces are being told to find work and not expect lifelong payments from ex-husbands.

The article cited a recent £75m divorce settlement from a Middle Eastern businessman in favour of his ex-wife. It added, however, that this had been an exceptional case and periods over which maintenance is paid are more often being limited.

In one case last year, a man who divorced in 2008 successfully returned to court for a reduction in maintenance paid to his ex-wife. The judge reportedly said that divorcees with children aged over seven should be willing to return to the workplace.

That decision has already started to influence other cases and it has been suggested that more women than men are now likely to think their divorce settlement was not fair, rather than the other way around, because indefinite maintenance is less common.

This is a significant change of climate for women, for whom finding suitable work that fits family commitments may not be easy. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say, so it is vital for either partner in a divorce to choose a family law expert attuned to current trends.

Here at Attwaters Jameson Hill, Joyti Henchie and her specialist family law team offer collaborative and other approaches that can save time, costs and angst. Whether a wife or a husband, every client may be assured they will not be sold short on their divorce.

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