Was the Observer right to claim divorce makes men significantly richer?

Cohabitation|Divorce|February 3rd 2009

With a headline of “Men become richer after divorce” adorning a page in the Observer recently, I felt compelled to write a response to Amelia Hill’s article, which was published this weekend on the paper’s letters page.

The initial piece was based upon research carried out by Professor Stephen Jenkins, a director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and chair of the Council of the International Association for Research on Income and Wealth.

It began with a blunt finding from Professor Jenkins’ report – “divorce makes men – and particularly fathers – significantly richer. When a father separates from the mother of his children his available income increases by around one third. Women, in contrast, suffer severe financial penalties. Regardless of whether she has children, the average woman’s income falls by more than a fifth and remains low for many years.”

As I have previously blogged, in the current economic climate the issue of ‘lump-sum’ settlements has become very important, as the marital wealth to be shared is worth substantially less than in previous years.

My letter read as follows:

“I am not surprised to learn that the average woman’s income plummets following divorce. As your report correctly highlights, the prognosis for many women is dire.

I may be able to shed some light on the revelation that just 31% of separated mothers receive payment from the father of their children. In some parts of the country, it is almost commonplace for wives to agree to a cheap, “clean break”, a one-off payment that ends a husband’s obligation to pay ongoing maintenance.

This option may seem attractive at the outset, but I believe that in many cases, a clean break is not advisable for a wife, especially if her ability to earn is limited because she is caring for children. Ongoing maintenance allows the income of the divorced spouse to increase in line with the former partner’s earned income over the years to come, for as long as it is needed.

It is worth noting that unmarried women cohabitants on low incomes fare even worse than their married counterparts when relationships break down. There is still no legal redress at all for financial hardships sustained by the weaker partner as a result of cohabitation.”

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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  1. Portia Barrett says:


    The judges know women are survivors and men find it much harder, so often unconsciously, they award the greater portion to the man.

    I had paid the mortgage and all bills, brought my business into the marriage and got 0p, while he got 4 million.

    My children and I have been homeless for 14 years while my X sits on 2 houses- one empty- so if anyone feels this is just, then please let me know.

  2. Portia Barrett says:

    Marriage was a Patriarchal creation anyway, to get control and possession of women and children.

    Virgins were in fact free women who were not dependant on men, but the Church of Rome changed all that and lied.

    They knew the property passed along the female line then- like the Seneca Indians- so they get rid of the women from power and demonise them as mothers, which is clear today.

    Many women think they are more equal today, but that is an illusion.

    Many women work, raise children, keep house etc, and are being drained of energy deliberately, and often suffer burn out by 30.

    This is what Patriarchal Feminism is doing, but we are failing to see the real agenda.

    Good men are also being demonised in the same way, while the lazy predators get away with so much.

    Most Women are not as interested in material money as men are.

    Most of us want to live in peace and harmony, but once lawyers get involved they pit the husband and wife against each other on the chess board- so it is the lawyers playing and the spouses mere pawns- for the money to roll in for the legal profession and their clique.

    Very sad of course, and the whole institution will fall soon like dominos.

    Lady Justice has had enough.

  3. Martin Lascelles says:

    Yes, But!
    I can understand that on average men’s incomes rise and women’s fall after divorce. This is hardly surprising since on average men’s incomes are higher than women’s and coming from a situation where incomes and expenses are pooled into separate finances is bound to have this result.

    But income is not the whole story when measuring who is “richer”. In most cases where there are savings, and equity in the family home, guess to whom the courts award the lion’s share?

    This is to compensate for the discrepancy in earning power, and in my experience judges strive to be scrupulously fair, and especially where children are involved, err if anything on the side of whoever they perceive to be the weaker side.

    I really sympathise with any woman who got shafted by the system, but there are probably just as many men rightfully feeling hard done by.

    What is really unfair is that it seems as if the party who is prepared to be selfish, ruthless, uncaring and manipulative usually come out of divorce better off than the one who has tried to be fair and responsible. And I’m also going to point the finger at some lawyers who are quite happy to take money from the dishonourable party and help them work the system to get more than their share, often at the expense of the children as well.

  4. Financial Dispute Resolution – look out for these stumbling blocks says:

    […] he may try to obtain a clean break rather than an agreement to pay maintenance, even when a clean break would be a highly unlikely outcome in […]

  5. erick says:

    i can only say such a selfish and feminist idea you think maraige is like a business and woman is a main shareholder!! 🙁

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