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Harris, Family Law Expert
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 2851
Experience:  Family Law - Specialist in Divorce, Financial Relief and Children Matters
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Divorce advice, 19 years marriage, 2 children 15 and 16, one

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Divorce advice , 19 years marriage , 2 children 15 and 16 , one with special needs. £500k house (£250k equity in husbands sole name) £20k savings , Wife doesn't work through choice rather than need , husband pays for everything (£90k pa). Clean break ideally , husband prepared to support children for however long necessary , concerned about spousal support being extended. Husband has paid for everything over the course of the marriage , unable to share care of children due to work obligations whihc he only has because wife refused to work in the first place.

Hi, thank you for your question. Just a bit more information required to fully assist you:
-How old are you both?
-What other assets and pensions do you both have (both sole and joint), together with values?
-What qualifications and earning potential does your wife have?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Wife 55 , Husband 43 (me)
No other assets other than the house I am aware of , possible my wife has something I don't know about , no pensions. Disability living allowance of one child paid direct to wife ( approx £900 a month). Husband also pays child benefit to wife directly ( due to high earnings). Husband pays mortgage , council tax , insurance , any associated costs and extras to do with the household. Wife pays petrol , food , clothing , electricity , gas .
Wife has BA(hons) Film degree , also qualified medical secretary , and experienced as a hospital manager , she worked as a scriptwriter for a year at start of marriage ( her chosen profession). She has done no work since 2001 , refused to consider child care to allow her to work.
Both children are at school and attend normal school hours , daughter with special needs requires no special care apart from supervision and the occasional clinic ( little different to any other young child of about 5 ).

Thanks for confirming.

As part of the divorce you will need to reach a financial settlement, initially this should be attempted through mediation - you can find independent mediators here: If a settlement is agreed this can be submitted to court under a consent order (together with a D81 form outlining your respective financial positions).

If mediation does not progress you should then proceed with an application to court under Form A for financial relief once the divorce petition has been issued.

You will both need to provide each other with full and frank financial and income disclosure, as well as disclosure of your reasonable needs. The Court's starting point is a 50-50 split of all matrimonial assets and ensuring that both your needs are met in relation to both assets and income. Given that she will likely be the main carer of the children, and her earning capacity (at least initially) will not be close to yours, a court will likely agree that the split of the assets should be more in her favour in order to meet her and the children's needs. She would also be entitled to seek spousal maintenance to meet her and the children's reasonable needs. Your position would be for her to demonstrate that she is maximising her income (both benefits and earnings) and that she makes disclosure of all the efforts she is making to do this.

In relation to the property, as this is the only asset, and as she is unlikely to be able to afford to fund her own housing, a court may find it reasonable for her to remain in the property with the children until they reach a certain age, after which the property should be sold and equity divided between you.

For your information the criteria considered by the court is:

1. The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future, including in the case of earning capacity any increase in that capacity which it would in the opinion of the court be reasonable to expect a party to the marriage to take steps to acquire;
2. The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;
3. The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage;
4. The age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage;
5. Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties to the marriage;
6. The contributions which each of the parties has made or is likely in the foreseeable future to make to the welfare of the family, including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family;
7. The conduct of each of the parties, if that conduct is such that it would in the opinion of the court be inequitable to disregard it;
8. In the case of proceedings for divorce or nullity of marriage, the value to each of the parties to the marriage of any benefit which, by reason of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage, that party will lose the chance of acquiring.

If you have any further questions regarding this please let me know. In the meantime if you found this information helpful please provide a positive rating using the stars at the top of this page. I will not be credited for answering your question without a positive rating. Thank you

Harris and other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
As I currently pay for everything anyway I was assuming I would have to continue paying for the house for a reasonable time.
My wife is unable to afford the mortgage to any meaningful degree and obviously my first priority is to my children regardless.
As I spend significant time out of the UK I suspect the situation after the divorce will be little different. What I am concerned about is primarily the spousal support aspect. I know fairness does not come into it but a major reason for the divorce is that my wife has refused to contribute financially to the household by seeking paid employment . Her justification for this falls primarily on claiming she has to look after my eldest daughter. My eldest daughter has always attended school and her needs are primarily supervision rather than medical ( she would probably have a mental age of around 6 or 7). My wife's chosen career is something that is primarily done from home anyway (scriptwriting). When offered child care services to help her regenerate her career she has refused them and generally becomes combatative and evasive as to why she will not seek paid employment. As a result I have had to sacrifice my home and family life in order to work sufficiently to maintain the household. My wife sees this as a point of criticism of my parenting skills whilst she refuses to acknowledge that her refusal to seek paid employment has created this situation in the first place. My wife has access to computers and a fast internet connection in the house. I bought her a laptop in order to encourage her to return to writing or at least do something. Her lack of meaningful response in this particular area has led to the breakdown of our marriage from my perspective. I appreciate the specifics of this are probably of little relevance to the court. I seek primarily to ensure my children are supported appropriately but I am hoping that i can do that on my terms rather than my wife's who's presence in my life is now unwanted. If for example I maintained the mortgage on the family house and child maintainance would it then be deemed unreasonable to also expect me to pay spousal support for a prolonged period of time? Also would I at least be entitled to half of the equity in the house if at some point in the future we agreed to sell it? If I give her all the equity in the house could I then reasonably expect to pay child maintenance without spousal maintenance? I am going to have to continue paying the house regardless unless my wife agrees to set up another home somewhere. thanks

Thanks for the further information and I note the substantial contributions you have been making to your family.

For a financial settlement arising out of the marriage, the court will not consider child maintenance if the child maintenance service has jurisdiction, which it will do in your circumstances. Any financial relief application by her will be for her needs (both income and housing needs) and providing her equity from the home or spousal maintenance will not discharge your liability for child maintenance.

In relation to what you would be entitled to from the equity in the home, the court's starting point is a 50-50 split of the equity of all matrimonial assets. Given your high income (and therefore better capacity) to obtain a mortgage or afford to rent, a court may be persuaded that the split of equity should be more in her favour.

In relation to timescales for spousal maintenance, court's nowadays are reluctant to grant long-term/life-long spousal maintenance provision except in exceptional circumstances. Given her capacity to obtain employment (due to her qualifications) you have a strong argument to keep this under review.

Of course an agreement in relation to spousal maintenance and a division of assets can be reached directly between you and then approved by a court.

For your information, in relation to child maintenance, on a gross income of £90,000 your legal liability will vary between a lower rate of £106 per week to a higher rate of £240 per week depending on how many nights, on average, the children spend overnight with you (the more they stay overnight the less your liability is).

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you . As I am only expected to pay child maintenance until the children turn 18 ( or 21 if in full time education I believe) would it be reasonable to expect the court to anticipate the ending of child maintenance for my eldest daughter by applying a commensurate amount to a spousal support payment? My eldest daughter is the one with special needs and she is currently 16. Understand I am more than willing to support my children for as long as I am able regardless of their age however I would rather than I am not required to also support my wife for the rest of her days and its on my terms. Its more about removing her as an influence in my life than it is about the money. I understand that she is entitled to at least half off anything we have acrued during the marriage as a minimum and I'm quite happy to let her have that. The only thing I'm vague on would be the spousal support. I need some idea of what that might be from a court's perspective. My wife at the very least will seek my agreement to give her what a court would grant anyway. I'm aware of what the equity and child maintenance levels would probably mean , the spousal support is the thing I could do with a reasonable estimate on before I start making arrangements with my wife. I see no reason why we shouldn't be able to reach an agreement ourselves. I suspect financially my payments will be similar to what I am paying right now . I am fine with this as long as its to give my family stability
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I calculate that I currently cover £1500 a month in terms of mortgage and payments related to the house.
I also pay her child benefit every month ( about £130 I think).
With a theoretical child maintenance of £800 my total outgoings every month are about half my take home.
In addition I regularly give her money whether she asks for it or not, probably about another £500 a month.
She also gets £900 a month in disability living allowance for my daughter and she gets a care's allowance and mobility I believe but I am unaware of the amounts.
Would it be unreasonable to expect the court to be unlikely to require me to contribute beyond the level I am currently? (lets say the discretionary money I give my wife would equate to the spousal support payment).
There are no other debts to service beyond the mortgage. The family car which she primarily drives I paid cash for.
From my perspective I'm thinking that any likely court enforced agreement is unlikley to be more money than I'm currently paying anyway.

Child maintenance liability (as assessed through the CSA/CMS) is a liability that ends when the children complete A-levels (or equivalent) and no further than 20 years old. You can see the guidance here: Once this liability ends you can provide any maintenance or finances directly to the children.

Spousal maintenance is only in relation to your wife's reasonable needs and not needs for the children. She would need to disclose all her reasonable needs (eg. mortgage/rent/bills/groceries etc) and what her income is from all sources and the court will start with you paying an amount to cover the shortfall. Without disclosure of what her reasonable needs are in figures it is difficult to confirm what sort of monetary amount you should be providing her.