Imagine this, a husband and a wife marry at a young age, they go on to have 3 children, during which time it was agreed between them that the wife would stay at home to raise the parties 3 children and assume the position of ‘home-maker’ whilst the husband would go in pursuit of his successful career and would assume the position of ‘breadwinner’ which needless to say was possible due to the on going support of his wife and her continuing support for their young family.
Now fast forward 25 years, all 3 children have grown up and are living independently, the husband continues to be a successful business man and the wife has since secured some part time employment which provides her with a modest income. Then suddenly ‘boom’ the parties announce that they are to separate.
As a specialist Family Law Solicitor, I am very often faced with questions such as ‘what will happen to me financially? and ‘am I going to be ok’?
The divorce process can be an unpleasant experience even more so if the parties are unable to reach an amicable settlement and in consequence find themselves having to meet on going legal costs in dealing with protracted litigation before the Family court. And what makes the process even more alien is that the person with whom you have spent most of your life with, who has been your best friend and soul mate all of a sudden becomes your opponent. It really isn’t surprising that individuals who find themselves going through separation experience a rollercoaster of emotions.
So how does the Law approach cases where one party’s vocation has been as a ‘homemaker’ while the other party’s vocation has been as a ‘breadwinner’? And does the law discriminate against ‘stay at home mothers’?
Well, the Court of Appeal has had to deal with this exact point in the recent case of Randy Work and his ex-wife Mandy Grey. Mr Work who is a billionaire businessman sought to argue a departure in equality of the party’s matrimonial wealth amassed during the course of their marriage on the basis that he had made all of the party’s wealth and claimed to possess a “quality of genius’ which enabled him to build the family fortune without the support of his ex-wife. However, the Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Work’s appeal and instead ordered him to pay to his ex-wife one half of his fortune. The Judge accepted that Mr Work would not have been able to amass his wealth had it not been for his former wife’s commitment and support to her husband.
We have seen time and time again wealthy husband’s trying to pursue legal arguments to convince a Judge that the family wealth has been borne out of their own hard work and effort and as such they should be recompensed to the wife’s disadvantage, thereby seeking a financial settlement which provides them with more than 50% of the value of the matrimonial assets. However, Section 25(2)(f ) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 states that the court must take into consideration the contributions which each of the parties has made or is likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family.
To successfully argue ‘special contribution’ it must be proven that one party has amassed significant wealth and that a certain ‘genius’ has been used to achieve this.
However, it is easy to see how this may look to both prejudice and discriminate against the homemaker, who after all, is likely to have played an integral part in building the family wealth through their on going support of the parties’ family which has been testament to the success of the breadwinner.
Hopefully this recent judgment will offer some assurance to homemakers that the law does not seek to lessen their ‘special contribution’ to the marriage over and above their breadwinner counterparts.
Kelly Pougher, Associate Solicitor is an Expert in Family Law and is able to offer expert advice on Matrimonial Finances and separation issues. Kelly is located at our Solihull Office and can be contacted on (0121) 624 4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org