Lots of stuff in the news this week regarding divorce settlements and what to do with men who don’t pay their maintenance. Personally I think the man who owns one of the largest green companies and who is worth over £100 million should have simply handed over 1% of his wealth to buy his ex wife a house. Now he will have to pay her more and even though they were divorced years ago, I don’t think it’s fair for him to abandon her and his son – who I note he paid no maintenance for whilst he was living the high life.

In addition, I think husbands who refuse to pay divorce settlements should indeed be hunted down. Sanctions have been put in place by the law commission which proposes legal reforms to ministers. Making husbands pay would save millions of pounds in welfare because single-parent families created by divorce often have to rely on benefits. It is mostly the husband who is the wealthier former spouse, but not always. At the moment prison is the only option – which is no good for the children and expensive for the state to implement – and frankly a ridiculous idea all round. There should be other alternatives such as the removal of the passport – not sure about curfews – what about deduction of the money at source?

The very difficult thing is that finances can be easily hidden and for abandoned women, the prospect of a lengthy and expensive court case and the hiring of a forensic accountant is well nigh impossible.

Divorcing is painful at the best of times, but they current system for dividing up the assets is hopeless. For women who find themselves in the unenviable position of being virtually unemployable in their late 40’s after years of child rearing, whilst their partner forges up the career ladder and then leaves them high and dry, it is deeply unfair. That is not to say that I don’t think women can’t go out to work again, of course they can, but if their lives have been centred around the children then perhaps there should be more financial acknowledgement of that.

Why don’t we introduce a system whereby the women’s commitment to bringing up the children is financially recognised?

Lets work it out shall we? Based on some research information I received today women do 6,570 days of continuous duty as a mother, generally in addition to doing a job – so even if they are not stay-at-home-mums, the commitment is huge:-

547 days of negotiating over haircuts and TV time
19,710 meals
2,340 of saying “have you done your homework
Football pitcch sized area of bedroom floor cleared and vacuumed
Cleaning the equivalent of Buckingham Palace 10 times over
6,500 pairs of socks washed
5,290 beds made

According to a YouGov Poll 80% of women with children under the age of 18 are responsible of the majority of the childcare. Looking after a baby for 7 days a week is in breach of Article 5 which specifies that “per each 7 day period every worker is entitled to a minimum uninterrupted rest period of 24 hours plus the 11 hours daily rest referred to in Article 3” All this work often goes completely unrewarded.

So lets just say that if you are a SAHM with young children and you weren’t going to add costs for being a driver, a chef, a cleaner and a carer, let alone for sexual services offered to your partner – even if you accepted the minimum wage for the mere basics over 18 years that would come to:-

£6.50 x 157,248 hours = £1,022,112

If we all got paid that, or negotiated a pro-rata sum depending on whether you go back to work, or your partner becomes the stay at home dad or you split up before your child is 18 you would still get a reasonable return on your investment.

It would save all the hassle of the courts, the public humiliation of who is more deserving, the private agony of how you are going to survive on a significantly lower income than you had been used to and ALSO it would make things a lot more simple and fair when you split up.

It’s something we need to instil in our children – perhaps arrange a contract. It will be very sad if the stay at home mother becomes entirely obsolete and all our children are looked after by strangers. Would we be even more disconnected than we already are?

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  1. Sarah Driver on

    Not sure about the ins and outs of the recent case but feel slightly uncomfortable with a payment years after the event. However, I do think there’s value in monetarising (is that even a word?!) a woman’s commitment to home and family- even if only to make the point of the value they add, that so often goes unheeded. I shall certainly get my daughters to have that conversation with their partners and the discussion about who should stay at home/both job share when children are young (usually focuses the male mind when they actually face being at home with young children vs carrying on a working life!) Probably a good idea to write a contract between them at that stage – it would be great if that counted should they ever divorce.

    • Family Affairs on

      Yes agree that is a very good thing to tell our children….think it could work moving forward – it would all be much fairer and clear – oh, or is that any different to the existing prenup?

  2. Family Affairs on

    This comment has come via email:-

    I wholeheartedly agree that the law does not adequately value the contribution of of stay at home mothers and also it does not take into consideration the fact that we have largely sacrificed our earning capacity when we gave up our careers in good faith. The lawyers state that the woman will not be thrown to the wolves but i have yet to meet a divorced woman who feels she has been fairly dealt with and i know personally that i do not trust the law to protect me. A man (usually) can hide cash, find clever ways of diverting cash and there seems to be nothing anyone can do about it – there should be as easier way of checking finances. In addition, as you say, a man can just stop paying maintenance and it will cost the woman tens of thousands of pounds to take him to court (which she is unlikely to have) to negotiate and the result is usually at best she has to take a huge cut in maintenance. So the rewards for the maintenance payer to just stop paying are high. There seems little justice.

    I believe that there is a system in place that means that maintenance (not sure if child or spouse) can be obtained from source ie straight from the employer but i dont know much about it. seems like a good idea to me.

    The other issue is how do we talk to our daughters and advise them how to avoid being in just this situaiton.. it seems like it is too risky to be a stay at home mother.

    Totally agree with you about the case you are referring to.. he is worth 150M… he should just chuck her £1m for sake of good will. Sorted. Money matters during divorce are always a matter of power.

  3. I was a stay at home mother bringing up my children for 15 years playing the very traditional wifely role of doing all the cooking, cleaning, washing,ironing, meal-on-the-table-when-he-got-home stuff and I was happy doing it – I loved being there for them all. The reward for this was a happy stable family environment and he earned enough for us to have a big house, private schools and extravagant holidays. However, when things went spectacularly wrong and our marriage collapsed because of his affair – I suddenly had to find a job having not been in the workplace for what seemed like a lifetime, and I had to also find something that I could do which fitted around being a single parent to all my children who were still young. So of course, I had limited options and I ended up in a job which has demanding long hours but also rubbish pay. I now not only work full time and look after my children single-handedly but I am also given a derisory amount from my ex which barely even covers 2 visits to Sainsburys. It seems to me that if a partner decides they no longer want to live a particular kind of life and they want to walk away it is extraordinarily easy for them to do so. In my experience, if your ex is clever enough to have disposed of all the money you have jointly accrued in a 20 year marriage through bad financial decisions and you are left with not even enough to hire a lawyer to help you sift through the debris of what remains, then you are quite simply stuffed.

    • Family Affairs on

      Thanks for your comment – it is deeply unfair that women can be so vulnerable to a sudden change in circumstances. How is that fair that you have to do it all on your own? Lx

  4. My word – YES. I’m at home and I WISH more people took it seriously, and I could only dream of some MONEY for ME! Thank you for this post. It’s always a boost to hear these words, even though I should remember them for myself every day.

    • Family Affairs on

      Thanks and great to hear that – I really do think more of us should stand up and insist – what would happen if we all went on strike for example? Lx

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