Are Men Financially Discriminated Against In Divorce? Legal View

Linda Lamb 31 May 2019

Are Men Financially Discriminated Against In Divorce? Legal View

Those in the public eye going through a divorce often provide a ringside seat to the courts' approach to carving up wealth. Is it an unfair battle of the sexes? A family law specialist sheds light.

Family law solicitor Linda Lamb looks at whether the English family court is more generous towards women in wealthy divorce cases, which is the assumption if reputation is any guide. Using the recently contested divorce of a reality TV star, Lamb offers commentary on the roles judges and discretion play. The editors of this news service are pleased to share these thoughts and invite readers to respond. Email

A reality star’s divorce case has raised a controversial question – does the English court system favour women over men when it comes to divorce?

Lauren Simon, a star of the ITVBe show Real Housewives of Cheshire has locked horns with her ex-husband, property developer Paul Simon, who is arguing that a £3 million divorce payout is “discriminatory” and has left him with nothing. He claims this is due to the payout being £1 million more than they held in liquid assets. However, Ms Simon has counteracted this saying that it was a fair amount for what she had put into their marriage.

There is no doubt that the English family courts have a reputation for being more generous to women when it comes to maintenance payments, which in other jurisdictions are either not available or not as bountiful.

However, the court still has to consider how large the family fund is and how this can be fairly distributed to allow both the husband and wife to move on with their lives. It is not uncommon for the breadwinner to feel that they should receive more after they created the financial fund, and for the other - in the weaker financial position - to feel that their role as a homemaker has been devalued in the divorce process, and that the other spouse has received a more favourable settlement because they have not been totally honest.

The case of the Real Housewives of Cheshire star, Lauren Simon is a perfect example. We do not know yet the reassessed total value of the assets considered until the case report is published by the Court of Appeal. There are disputes about what should and shouldn’t be defined as part of the family fund. The ex-husband has disputed that Ms Simon is entitled to a share of his family trust fund capital. However Ms Simon has claimed that the joint fund is worth considerably more than the sum suggested by the husband.

Nonetheless, what is for sure is that both will be spending a considerable amount of the family funds on legal costs, the appealed order already having been fully contested in court with  both of them having to pay their own costs. The risk in the appeal from the ex-husband is that if unsuccessful there could be a costs order against the version that the court did not accept.

The court has discretion to decide the importance and relevance of all the circumstances of the family and make an order. This is why it is hard to predict exactly what a court will order because although all judges use the same Section 25 criteria, they view the importance of the different points in many ways. The court does have to consider the following set criteria in all cases whether an order is agreed or contested after proceedings –
•    Income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources now and foreseeable soon;
•    Financial needs, obligations and responsibilities now and foreseeable soon;
•    Standard of living before the breakdown of the marriage;
•    age and length of marriage;
•    physical and mental disability;
•    contributions made or in foreseeable future to the welfare of the family including non-economic contribution;
•    value to each of any benefit they will lose the chance of acquiring.

Many financial cases settle either with a consent order before or during the early stages of court proceedings. These cases are not reported but usually reflect fairness by using the criteria above. Increasingly, women are earning more than their partners and childcare is more evenly shared. It is only in the really extreme cases where nothing is ever agreed and/or there is considerable wealth involved that appears to suggest the English family court is more generous to women.

It appears that, despite the perception of women being favoured financially in the English divorce courts, this in practice really only applies to the super wealthy.

Linda Lamb is a solicitor and director at LSL Family Law.

Register for WealthBriefing today

Gain access to regular and exclusive research on the global wealth management sector along with the opportunity to attend industry events such as exclusive invites to Breakfast Briefings and Summits in the major wealth management centres and industry leading awards programmes