Compensation in Divorce – What is it and can I get it?

20 Jun 2019

The question of whether compensation can be sought in divorce proceedings is a question our family solicitors are often asked by clients.

This article takes a look at when, in reality, a compensation claim may be successful in divorce proceedings.

Tabloid coverage of divorce cases is often sensationalist and never quite what it seems. This headline from this week is just the latest example of this… “Man, 70, is ordered to pay his ex-wife £142,000 as compensation for 27 years of household chores in Argentina”.

In reality, the award was actually a reflection of the length of the parties’ marriage and the fact that the Wife had not worked during the marriage. The Court in Argentina accepted, unsurprisingly, that at 70 years of age, the Wife was not going to be able to secure herself employment to be able to be financially independent.

Can I get compensation for doing all the chores?

The short answer is – no!

What is important to note thought is that under English law, contributions to the home (being chores, running the home, staying at home to look after children) are considered equal in value to financial contributions such as being the breadwinner or sole earner.

This means that a spouse (either male or female) will not be financially penalised for their financial contribution to the marriage being less than their spouse’s, especially where there are children involved.

Is compensation ever payable?

It is possible for compensation claims to be run successfully in divorce proceedings although these are often disproportionate in the vast majority of everyday cases.

The factors considered by the Court when distributing finances on the breakdown of the marriage are contained in s25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act.

The idea of “compensation” was introduced in the case of Miller v Miller; McFarlane v McFarlane 2006 and was considered along with the principles of “needs” and “sharing”.

In this context compensation was considered in relation to relationship generated disadvantage, so where a spouse had given up a lucrative career to look after the parties’ children. In these circumstances that spouse’s career and potential earning capacity stalls significantly whilst the other spouse continues on their upward trajectory, increasing their earnings as they go. In these circumstances, should the spouse who has given up their career be “compensated” for their loss?

Issues such as compensation are complex, not only from a legal perspective, but from a public policy one too. Many stay at home parents would not consider looking after their children full-time a “sacrifice”. However, when it comes to dividing money on divorce, that opinion can change if one spouse feels that they are in a more vulnerable financial position as a result of the decisions made together during the marriage.

Even in cases where compensation claims are considered to have succeeded, they have in reality been rolled up in a more generous “needs” award as opposed to a separate sum being received by a spouse as a result of this strand of their claim.

Key principles to be considered

1. Contributions made by a housewife or househusband will be considered equal in value to the financial contributions of the breadwinner.

2. Any loss of earning capacity will be considered in the wider approach to the case.

3. Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers!

If you are going through a divorce and want to find out more about compensation, or require legal support or mediation, Trethowans’ team of experienced divorce solicitors are here to provide you with the support you need. Contact experienced legal executive and family solicitor, Eloise Down, on 01202 339024 to discuss your requirements.


Eloise Down

Chartered Legal Executive