Legal words of comfort for men coping after divorce

16 Jun 2017

Much has been written in the press recently about how men cope after divorce. According to a recent survey conducted by Yorkshire Building Society, men were shown to suffer more emotional trauma than women following the end of their marriage. In addition 41% of men described themselves as still sad about the failure of their marriage 2 years after divorce as apposed to only 31% of women.

The survey, which questioned 3,515 divorced adults about the impact of their marital break-up, found that nearly three-quarters of those separating more than two years ago were happier now. However, of more significance is that the research highlighted that women were comprehensively shown to handle divorce better than their male partners.

Why is this? One school of thought behind these statistics is that women are habitually better placed at dealing with their emotional well being whereas men are inclined to bottle up their emotions rather than seek therapeutic support.

Another view, as highlighted in a recent article in The Telegraph, was that it was because the law is biased toward the wife when dealing with the financial aspects of the marriage, or the mother when considering the future care of the children. However, men should take comfort in the fact that the courts, on the whole, are no longer gender biased.

Let’s look firstly how men are treated in law when the future care of their children is to be determined. According to Telegraph journalist Lucy Cavendish, there used to be “an unspoken rule that the children stay with the mother at whatever cost to the man”

In the recent case of Re C [2015], which dealt with the issue of one parent wishing to relocate their children to another area of the county, Lord Justice Vos made it very clear when commenting on a historic leading case that times had changed and this historic case did not “adequately reflect the gender-neutral approach to these problems that the court will now adopt in every case”.

Emma Wilders-Pratt Partner in the family team at Trethowans adds, “As a family solicitor at the coal face of the local family courts I have seen first hand a sea change in the court’s view and approach when considering the role of both parents post separation. Whilst there did historically appear to be a bias toward mother as primary carer in the local family court, this has really changed and the court’s view is clear that a child’s relationship with both parents is equally important.”

Financially the tide is also changing. In big money cases over recent years the judgements appeared to favour the wives with large settlements being given in the wife’s favour and hefty maintenance orders for life. In the infamous case of C V C [1997] the husband met his wife she was working as a high class prostitute. After a 9 month marriage they separated. The wife secured a significant lump sum and a high level of maintenance for life on the basis she needed maintenance after a fractured career post marriage.

What a difference then in the case of Wright v Wright [2015]. The husband was an equine surgeon, aged 59. The wife, aged 51, had worked as a legal secretary and administrator before the marriage. The parties had two children, aged 16 and 10. When the financial arrangements were initially determined by the court the wife was to receive a high level of maintenance for life. The husband later applied to vary this part of the order. He was successful but the, by then, former wife appealed. The appeal was dismissed. During the appeal Lord Justice Pitchford sent a very clear message that, once children reached seven there would be an expectation that the mother, if primary carer, should begin part time work and make a financial contribution.

Following the case of White v White [2001], in financial cases, the court strives to ensure overall fairness and as a separating spouse you should take comfort in the fact that this does happen whether you are a man or a woman.

If you have separated from your spouse and need expert advice and assistance our family team at Trethowans are here to help.