‘Girl Power’ and the Death of the ‘Meal Ticket for Life’ 

Published on 24 May, 2017 | Andrew Newbury

One of the consequences of there being more coverage of divorces in news media over recent years is the the belief that all marriages end in acrimony.

Most, in fact, do not and are dealt with in a relatively amicable fashion.

However, that doesn’t mean to say that the provision of ongoing maintenance is not without its difficulties.

A single, ‘clean break’ settlement is regarded as the ideal, both for couples and courts, but it is not always possible.

The need to support an ex-spouse can create friction, as my colleague James Brown pointed out in March when writing on this ‘blog about objections voiced by some ‘breadwinning wives’ to requests that they maintain their former husbands (https://hallbrown.co.uk/spousal-maintenance-income-role-reversal/).

Although, maintenance is a familiar element of divorce, official figures show that it is becoming much less common.

Careful analysis of data published by the Ministry of Justice (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/family-court-statistics-quarterly) reveals that there were 13 per cent fewer maintenance orders agreed in 2016 than only five years before.

That will, in part, be due to the attitudes of the court on wives’ earning potential. Over the last two years, there has been a definite shift in expectation with more wives effectively being told only to expect support for a limited period of time, if at all.

However, as Hall Brown’s caseload demonstrates, the actual drop is likely to be greater than central figures suggest.

As I’ve been telling Frances Gibb, The Times’ Legal Editor, that is due to a combination of factors, including a willingness to assert their financial independence – proof positive, if you will, of the impact of ‘Girl Power’.

In addition, there has been a growing appreciation of the difficulties associated with securing and receiving maintenance from the growing number of self-employed former husbands.

For some women, the security of having all of nothing is preferable to the worry and hassle necessary to perhaps get even a portion of what they’re entitled.

It would appear that whilst the concept of standing on one’s own two feet is the objective for confident, professional ex-wives with the means to achieve it, others simply have no alternative.

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