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Fairer Divorce Settlements Allow Women to Better Balance Work and Life

Fairer Divorce Settlements Allow Women to Better Balance Work and Life

Women are now better placed to balance family life and work after divorce as a result of a landmark legal ruling, according to new research.

Divorce settlements before the White v White case had been seen as failing to recognise the significant contribution women made within the home when dividing assets.

But since the case in 2000, which is seen as the ‘yardstick of equality of division’, women who have divorced have received a fairer share of assets.

The ruling has ushered in an era of multimillion pound settlements involving some of Britain's most successful retail bosses and their spouses, with judges looking very favourably on the wives who raise the children while their husbands focused on building their businesses.

Most recently Nick Robertson, co-founder of ASOS was ordered to pay his ex-wife £70 million and now Ocado's boss Tim Steiner is fighting an acrimonious divorce battle.

Now according to a study from Turin University economist, Daniela Piazzalunga, some women have felt able to work fewer hours and spend more time with their children following divorce.

Slater and Gordon’s Head of family law, Amanda McAlister, said: “This ruling was a breakthrough – advancing the way women were viewed within divorce proceedings, finally acknowledging the massive contribution and value that women provide to the home.

“It has resulted in assumption that women should be viewed as equal contributors – whether they work or not – when dividing up assets during divorce proceedings.”

This new study looked at data from the British Household Panel Survey, which has been charted for nearly 25 years to track trends in women’s changing work patterns. It showed that women are five to 10 per cent more likely to be caring for their children rather than doing more housework.

When there is the absence of financial need in a divorce case (i.e. the couple’s wealth exceeds their reasonable requirements and those of any children they have) then non-financial contributions can be considered in determining the financial settlement, as was originally applied in the White v White divorce case.

Pamela and Martin White were both farmers who married in 1961. Their joint farming business was very successful, allowing them to acquire more assets. The judge in their divorce case found that they had net assets worth £4.6m and the court of appeal decided that the financial settlement should reflect not just Pamela’s contribution to the business but also to their family. This was the first time a woman’s contributions to the family were recognised in a court of law as a valuable contribution to the partnership.