Older women who stay in unhappy marriages for the sake of their finances are often surprised to learn they have more rights than they think, say lawyers.
Statistics show that increasing numbers of men are divorcing in their 50’s and 60’s. While greater numbers of women under 45 divorce compared to men, this changes with age, with figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that from the age of 45, men overtake women in the number of divorces filed.
Jeetesh Patel, a divorce lawyer in the family team at London law firm Hodge Jones & Allen explains that concerns about the impact on their finances can deter older women from ending troubled marriages. They should, however, remember they do have considerable rights.
He says: “I see women who have been married for many years who have not only sacrificed their own careers to look after children and the home but have spent considerable time and effort in helping their husband in his career. Often, they may have no savings or pension of their own so are rightly concerned about the implications of divorce on their finances. They are often surprised to learn that they will be entitled to a significant percentage of the marriage’s joint assets as well as ongoing maintenance payments.”
Jeetesh explains that there are steps women concerned about the financial implications of divorce can take to ensure they reach the best settlement:
- Ensure you have a good understanding of the marriage’s joint assets: Some women in this position will have left the job of dealing with finances to their husbands. For those contemplating separation, it is important to take time to understand what the joint assets of the family are. Make sure you are aware of all bank accounts, savings, ISAs and shares held by yourself and your husband as these will form part of the joint asset pool to which you will be entitled.
- Push for maintenance rather than a lump sum: Husbands who have been the main earners typically want to pay a one-off cash settlement on divorcing but generally wives will be better off pushing for a joint life maintenance award which would give them an allowance for the rest of their lives. This will be calculated based on current expenditure so it is wise to keep a record of your monthly outgoings for at least six months prior to divorce.
- Think about options for alternative housing: For many women in their 50’s and 60’s who have not been working or have low incomes, obtaining a mortgage will be difficult. With children no longer living in the family home, it may need to be sold as part of the divorce, so consider options for alternative housing and research the cost. In some cases, wives may find the property is only in their husband’s name. In this case you can contact the Land Registry and exercise what are called ‘homes rights’ to protect your interest in the property and prevent your husband selling it before a divorce settlement is agreed.
- Understand your pension entitlement: In many cases women will have no pension provision, assuming they could rely on their husband’s after retirement. This can be worrying but those who have been married for many years do have an entitlement to as much as half of their husband’s pension pot.
It pays to be astute so ensure you understand the different pensions your husband holds, including private pensions and employee pensions and which institutions they are with as this will help when working with your lawyer to identify what your entitlements are.
- For those in shorter marriages, entitlements will be far lower: Whilst those divorcing after a long marriage can expect a significant asset share, those who have been married for a shorter time and have not brought up children together are unlikely to walk away with a significant share of their partners’ assets. In these cases, each party is likely to have come to the marriage with their own assets and will probably part with what they came with, particularly if they entered into a pre-nuptial agreement before marriage, which is often advised for those marrying in later life.
For further information, please contact:
Kerry Jack or Louise Eckersley at Black Letter Communications
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
020 3567 1208
Notes for Editors
Hodge Jones and Allen
- Hodge Jones and Allen is one of the UK’s most progressive law firms, renowned for doing things differently and fighting injustice. Its managing partner is Patrick Allen, recently awarded a lifetime achievement award by Solicitors Journal.
- For 40 years’ the firm has been at the centre of many of the UK’s landmark legal cases that have changed the lives and rights of many people.
- The firm’s team of specialists have been operating across: Personal Injury, Medical Negligence, Industrial Disease, Civil Liberties, Criminal Defence, Court of Protection, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Family Law, Military Claims, Serious Fraud, Social Housing, Wills & Probate and Property Disputes.
- In 2016, the firm launched Hearing their voices – a campaign to raise awareness and build conversations around the issues and the injustices we might all face.