The law applied to finances on divorce is gender neutral. There is no rule, presumption or precedent which states that a woman should, on the basis of her sex, receive a larger settlement than her husband.
When a Court is deciding what should happen to a couple’s finances when their marriage breaks down its overriding objective is to achieve a fair outcome. When considering what is fair it takes into account all of the circumstances of the case including the parties ages, the length of the marriage, their health and resources.
The most important consideration, however, is the needs of the husband, wife and any children. This means that the Court must ensure that any financial settlement enables both parties to be housed in suitable accommodation and with sufficient income to meet their day to day needs.
The starting point for a division of assets on divorce is that they should be shared equally between a husband and wife. It is then open to either party to argue why they should receive a larger share. This may be because they had significant assets before the divorce or have made a particularly significant contribution.
The most common reason, however, for one party to receive more than half of the assets is because their financial position is weaker than that of their spouse and it is necessary for them to receive a larger settlement to enable them to meet their basic needs.
It is still the case that in many households the husband is more financially secure than the wife. A woman is more likely to have stayed at home during a marriage to care for the children or put her career on hold while her husband continued to work. This means that her financial needs may be greater on divorce, particularly as these will often also include the needs of the children.
In some cases women do, therefore, receive more than their husband on divorce, and on occasions on the majority of the assets. This is not, however, because of their gender but because their need is greater.
Every case is however decided on its own facts and if the wife is in the stronger financial position her husband may receive the larger settlement.
Vicki McLynn is a Principal Lawyer at Slater and Gordon.