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Divorce: who gets what in the break-up?

The second article of our series on divorce looks at the different financial settlements that can be reached between individuals going seperate ways.


The second article of our series on divorce looks at the different financial settlements that can be reached between individuals going seperate ways.


Times a'changing


Last month Galina Berezovsky, the estranged wife of the Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, was granted a divorce in the High Court in what could be one of the biggest divorce settlements in UK legal history. 

But why was she divorcing in England when both are Russian citizens?  Because, as Nigel Shepherd, a divorce and family law partner at solicitors, Reeve & Mills puts it, ‘as a country we are more generous than any country in the world on spousal maintenance.’ 

Suzanne Kingston a partner in family lawyers Dawsons believes, however, that things could change. ‘There is a general feeling in the profession that the days of England and Wales being the divorce capital of the world, with large payouts for wives, are numbered and that there is likely to be a swing away from the large awards that have been given in the last few years. Of particular note is the difference between rules we have for maintenance - possibly for life - and a number of our European neighbours who have much limited maintenance provisions,’ she said.

So if you are going through a divorce or about to embark upon one, what can you expect and who gets what? The first thing to bear in mind is that no two divorces are exactly the same and each family’s circumstances are different. If you own little or nothing and there are no children the break up may be relatively simple. Where you both have substantial assets and there are children the situation could be more complicated. But it is always best to try and reach agreement rather than embark on litigation. Lawyers don’t come cheap!

Collaborative lawyers


You might want to smooth the way by both using collaborative lawyers. The important point is that collaborative lawyers sign an agreement with you that disqualifies them from representing you in court if the collaborative process breaks down. That means they are absolutely committed to helping you find the best solutions by agreement, rather than confrontation. If you choose this route make sure the lawyer is trained in this area, and is preferably a member of Resolution (formerly the Solicitors Family Law Association).


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19 comments so far. Why not have your say?

Donald Chan

Aug 08, 2010 at 18:05

Separate ways!

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alan thorburn

Aug 08, 2010 at 18:34

The wife always wins!

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Pat Wild

Aug 08, 2010 at 19:48

Alan, In most circumstances I agree with you and pity the poor male; however, I would say things are loaded against the higher earner and, just occasionally, that's the female! Something needs to be done about the parasitic partner, of whichever sex.

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Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Aug 09, 2010 at 09:56

Reading the above puts me right off marriage. When you do the maths considering divorce statistics, a man is very likely to ruin his life (financially at least) if his marriage goes wrong. A lot to lose, and not much to gain (considering the difference between living together and marriage).

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Aug 09, 2010 at 10:16

Marriage is not a rational choice when there is a discrepancy in assests or earning potential. The present law seems to stem from a time when women were chattels with no independance or earning potential of their own. Don't get me started on child maintenance though!

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Anonymous 2 needed this 'off the record'

Aug 09, 2010 at 10:40

How exactly is it that 'the wife always wins'? Upon marriage breakdown it is usually the woman who ends up burdened with the care of children, even though women on average earn less even if working full time, and with children to look after it is well near impossible to get a decent job??? It also means that women don't have any free time to socialise, date, or even have a quiet evening by themselves, while men are typically free agents after a divorce. Yes, poor men indeed, having to help pay for the upkeep of the children they've made - how grossly unfair, huh? Men truly are such victims.

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Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Aug 09, 2010 at 15:19

When everything is fine, women have children because they want and desire them as a lifestyle choice. Women here call their offspring "my children".

When divorce comes to the door, women are burdened with the care of children and had to abandon their careers. Women here call their offspring "his children".

It is funny how the tune changes.

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Aug 09, 2010 at 17:33

Regardless of the rights and wrongs it's the children that suffer and grow up with bitter memories. When will divorcing couples take responsibility for their actions and stop trying to score points, and using children as a weapon against their ex?

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Aug 09, 2010 at 19:43

Men (or the high earner, usually the man) will stop 'scoring points' when the law gets real. Most women can 'blow the whistle' at any time (whether morally justified or not) knowing that the law will favour them heavily. Notice not one of the criteria is based on who earned the wealth (with all its pressures), whether before or after the marriage.

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Anonymous 3 needed this 'off the record'

Aug 10, 2010 at 11:08

Ridiculous comments re the wife 'burdened' with the children. As an estranged father, I certainly do not see myself as a 'free agent' but rather as one who feels that the divorce courts are adversorial and marginalise the role of the father. Indeed, the courts intepretation of the Children's Act, and the resultant garbage CAFCASS, are laughable.

Personally, I sought court action (as a last resort to gain access to our children) after giving everything to my ex to ensure that the inevitable divorce 'dislocation' to our children was minimised. CAFCASS made sure, in their astoundingly biased incompetence, that this was undermined.

But why am I surprised?

CAFCASS is staffed by former parole officers (who have an intuitively negative view of men given that the prison population is over 90% male). A major source of non-parent input into the case file is from the childs primary school (guess what? over 80% of primary school teachers are female).

As a single father myself (my son decided to live with me), it appalls me that when I contact the CSA, they automatically assume that I am the non-resident parent, because I am male.

..need I go on to illustrate the Courts etc are heavily biased towards women? No, I don't need to, or indeed have to.

When one party divorces the other party to a marriage, divorce concerns the dissolution of the marriage contract, the division of marital assets, the division of responsibility of the child/children. With respect to the children, the sooner the Courts adopt a co-parenting approach as they do in many European countries, the better.

So, yes, the woman ALWAYS wins, due to the adversorial and institutionally woman-biased nature of the family courts.

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Sybil Ferguson

Aug 10, 2010 at 11:36

divorce after retirement and a long marriage means that after the death of one of the parties, the spouse pension is not paid to anyone. Why should the insurance company be allowed to withold this pension that has been contributed to for years?

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Anonymous 4 needed this 'off the record'

Aug 10, 2010 at 16:20

I can say, from first hand experience it is not the woman who ALWAYS wins!!

Not all of us are 'unreasonable or parasitic'. The law may be 'on the side of the woman', but if there's no point in going to court because the ex-husband has got himself into a financial position where he can hardly support himself - then what affects his life, unfortunately remains an influence on 'ours'. So guess what, no maintenance and 'the woman' has all the financial pressure and responsiblity of raising 2 children while working full time!!

Now who ends up 'holding the baby'?!

So NO, the 'women' do not always 'win'!

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william morgan

Aug 10, 2010 at 17:56

Never approach a third party such as a solicitor. This just adds an expensive communications barrier. You always know how much a partnership costs. If you choose to leave then meet your part of the family costs.

"Winners"- anyone using this term is still struggling with the bitterness- get over it!

Headline divorces are simply that. Most of us work through the fog of the first couple of years then start getting back on our feet. A good time to develop some focus- saved my company.

By the way- I left.

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Anonymous 5 needed this 'off the record'

Aug 10, 2010 at 18:16

It really is a sad state of affairs (no pun intended)isn't it. As a chap you tend to try to work as hard as you can to get the finanical security to look good, be attractive etc. then once you get the girl you work hard to give them all you can.

as the other contributors have said, when one party normaly the woman pulls the trigger, she can move on to another guy and not marry him, therefore still enjoying the cash from the divorced chap. you would basically have to be a moron to marry and put yourself in to such a position.

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Aug 24, 2010 at 07:16

Hi there , I have recently seperated from my wife after 34 years of marraige ,we have one dependant child (15 ) I have stayed at home to look after our child for the last 14 years ( to allow my wife to pursue her career ) and in my late 50s have little chance of employment . my wife works and enjoys a very good salary , we have no mortgage , and very few outgoings , substantial savlngs, and two properties , My wife has offered for me to keep one of the properties and she the other , and also an amount per month for myself to live on until she retires and this amount to be reduced by half then , we will split our savings 50/50 as anyone any idea what percetage of her salary i should be looking at for my monthly allowance or any other possible problems along the way !! we intend to agree to the proposals ourselves with no lawyer involved

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Jun 24, 2013 at 16:19

Divorce courts are NOT biased towards women. If he is the breadwinner he is in control and my ex kept his assets as he was financially aware and I was a home maker . That means I didnt have the knowledge he had, HE came out very well, NOT the woman.

Men need to be responsible or stop asking women to give birth, cook clean , support them or give up their earning potential.

The male comments here are typically from selfish little boys who dont understand what women achieve or do for them. What a woman faces through stages of life left me with no future. I talk from experience when I say the court is manipulated by men and they win because they WRONGLY try to label women as gold diggers

Women/mothers/sisters/ daughters need more protection in divorce not less from the ruthless behaviour of men.

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Jun 24, 2013 at 16:23

it doesnt matter what the lawyer is called Collaborative or not - in reality they are simply there to send mail to to other lawyers and its down to how the judge feels in the moment he decides your future.

All lawyers want is their bill paid and move onto next one, its a game. Dont be fooled by thinking they are doing the best for you or they will be considerate to your feelings.

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Jun 24, 2013 at 16:28

Driver - your comment, regardless of who earned the money?? If you cant share it, you should avoid marriage. A marriage is equal partnership,the same family, who earns the money compared to all that the other partner contributes. Do you charge rent to your spouse for living with you?

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Jun 24, 2013 at 16:41

The breadwinner - can arrange to have their salary reduced and outgoings raised, that way they avoid maintenance. There are ways and means to avoid maintenance even if you get a court order for maintenance. Breadwinner is usually the man as he is free to work and build up his life, so divorce usually works in his favour, definitely not the dependent .

Anything owned before the marriage can be hidden from the judge as is the case with my own divorce. Judge only makes a decision on what the breadwinner puts on paper, whether its honest or not. The dependent has nothing to put on paper. Judge is being told who to favour. The man.

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