Do Main Carers Lose Out On Divorce?

When couples first have children they have to make important decisions about who will look after them, particularly until the children reach school-age.

Most people will either do what feels right or discuss a variety of options and then decide.

Will both parents apply for flexible work arrangements and work part time?  Will they employ a nanny or au pair or send the child to nursery?  Can grandparents or friends help out or will one parent give up their paid employment so they can stay at home to look after the children?

These decisions can have a lasting effect and raise many important questions and issues for the couple.

>Will the mother be overlooked for promotion when she’s on maternity leave?  

>Are part time employees considered to be less committed by their employer? 

>Who will take time off work if the children are ill? 

Why these early decisions affect divorce.

The decision of whether or not to work and the possible impact on a parent’s career can also have an impact if the parents subsequently divorce.

As a family lawyer it’s sometimes difficult to advise both husbands and wives about the appropriate amount of spousal maintenance when a marriage breaks down.  Legally the courts are obliged to consider a “fair outcome” and must ensure the parties’ needs are met. 

The starting point of an equal sharing of capital doesn’t apply to income and this is looked at separately.

Many wives (and it usually is mothers), feel aggrieved that they gave up a well-paid career to support their husband and to look after the home and the children.  On divorce they may have a claim for maintenance. But the court must also do what it can to ensure both people move to financial independence as soon as possible. 

Although the principle of paying compensation to a wife for “relationship-generated disadvantage”, the reality is that this seldom happens. 

Last week a woman who sacrificed her potentially lucrative career as a solicitor so she could look after the children of the family, was awarded £400,000 of compensation on top of an equal share of the family’s wealth.  The husband’s career had taken precedence and he enjoyed a “stellar” career in London as solicitor.

The Judge deciding the case made it clear that this was a rare judgement and that there were exceptional circumstances. It should not be seen as a sign that the floodgates will open for all women who sacrifice their career for their family. 

What happens in a relationship affects what happens when it has ended.

No one enters a marriage or civil partnership expecting to be divorced. But the decisions that are made by couples clearly do have an impact on incomes and lifestyles should couples split up.


If you would like further information and advice about family law, divorce or separation, please contact Sandra Marshall or Madeleine Young on 0118 9575337.

We offer a fixed fee appointment of £85 to discuss your unique circumstances. We advise clients in the Reading, Bracknell and Windsor areas.

Published on 06/03/2020

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