Man in Christmas hat gives us money

I’m a dog lover and make regular donations to Dogs Trust, which is a charity rehoming abandoned dogs. Their catchphrase is “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”.

I thought a rather tongue in cheek similar phrase for my clients would be “A husband is for Christmas but not necessary for life!”

At first viewing this may be thought to cover the number of marriages which breakdown, despite the fact both parties entered into the marriage anticipating it would be long term.

However, it also refers to how long you would expect a husband to financially support an ex-wife.

In many marriages, if the wife isn’t earning, or at least not earning a similar figure to her husband, that is a joint decision between the couple. It suits each of them that one party (often the wife) stays at home to look after the children and general housekeeping duties. That means that the husband can go to work knowing he doesn’t need to worry about those areas since his wife is taking main responsibility for them.

However, what happens if it goes wrong and they end up seeking a divorce? The wife may have been out of the job market for a significant period of time. She may not have kept up to date with all the changes in her industry. In that sense she’s not necessarily going to be very attractive in the job market. She may also still need to deal with childcare issues, dependant on the age of the children. That will also hamper her getting maybe the highest paying role she could, since working hours and commuting will play a part in her decision.

I have great sympathy for women in this situation. They are at an emotionally low ebb, and feel that everything around them that they are comfortable with is changing. If at this stage she also needs to re-enter the job market after a significant break, this can only add to her stress.

However, on the other side of the coin, do we really think it’s fair that a husband will continue supporting his ex-wife financially without her needing to take steps to improve her income position?

This was covered in the recent case of Tracey Wright who hadn’t worked since her divorce. Her income was provided through spousal maintenance from her ex-husband. Her ex-husband paid £75,000 a year in maintenance and school fees. This was a joint lives order which means that the payment would continue until one party dies, or the recipient remarries or the court makes a further order.

Her ex-husband, Malcolm Wright, went to the High Court to seek a reduction on his maintenance. Lord Justice Pitchford supported this, saying wives could no longer expect to life off their ex-partner for life, and once children were over the age of seven, she should get a job.

Women need to be aware of his and take any appropriate action to be able to financially support themselves at least to some degree.

Let me know what you think of this ruling. Is it unfair? Leave your comments below. I would love to see them.

If you’re going through divorce and would like to discuss your finances please call me for a confidential, no obligation discussion on 01932 698150.