Posted by Clizia Motterle, Associate
Homemaker contributions – what can we learn from Britain’s biggest divorce award?
Despite a general reduction in maintenance awards in recent years, the law of England & Wales remains favourable to ‘stay-at-home mums’. When it comes to the division of matrimonial assets, the contributions of the financially weaker spouse are still seen as equal to those of the main breadwinner.
When making a financial order on the breakdown of a marriage, the Court is required to consider a number of factors, including the contributions made by either party to the family. This includes the contributions made by way of looking after the home and caring for the children.
This point, which is embedded in statute, has recently been reiterated by the High Court.
Homemaker contributions – a recent case
Last month, a City banker was ordered to pay £453 million (approximately one half of the ‘matrimonial pot’) to his estranged wife, who had spent over 20 years looking after the couple’s children and home whilst he went out to work.
The husband was unsuccessful in arguing his financial contribution to the marriage should be more highly regarded than the wife’s homemaker contributions. The Court found that neither his inherited wealth, nor his hard work in City, were special enough to justify the wife receiving substantially less than 50% of the matrimonial assets.
What this means for homemaker contributions
Marriage remains a joint effort; the allocation of roles within the family will rarely have an impact on the division of the assets in divorce.
Financially stronger husbands or wives may argue that this approach is unfairly favourable towards the financially weaker party. However, the arguments run on their behalf (normally relying on their ‘special contributions’ to the family’s wealth) have rarely been successful. Special contributions need to be truly exceptional in nature to be relevant – they are sometimes defined as ‘stellar’, which gives an idea of how high the bar is set.
This recent decision firmly reiterates that both parties to a marriage are equal, whether their primary role is to raise a family (sometimes juggling a part-time, lower paid job) or to provide financially. When it comes to contributions to a marriage, being a stay-at-home mum or dad does not rank lower than pursuing a career outside the home.
Whether you think your contributions to your marriage may be stellar, or whether you feel as if your homemaker contributions to your marriage may be unfairly disregarded, our family solicitors will ensure that you get realistic, pragmatic and cost effective advice.
In divorce, division of assets can be a stressful process but our practical legal advice can help. Please contact our specialist family team on:
0800 923 2074 Email us
Family law solicitors who combine expertise with understanding