When should a mother be expected to return to work?

Anne Thistlethwaite a Solicitor and Mediator at AMD Solicitors considers two recent cases on Financial Provision after divorce.

When should a mother be expected to return to work?

Over the course of, say, a ten-year marriage a wife may have given up her job and have three young children in primary school. Why do I mention this? Mrs Wright was in the news recently as a Judge told her that she is expected to go back to work now that her children are 16 and 10 years old.

When the original maintenance order had been made, in 2008, the youngest child had been only 3 years old. The Judge at that time said that within a couple of years the wife should be contributing financially, whilst fitting in with her child care responsibilities. Before the marriage she had worked as a Legal Secretary and an Administrator. The Judge said that there was “a general expectation that once a child is in Year 2, most mothers can consider part-time work consistent with their obligations to their children”. By 2012, the husband’s financial circumstances had worsened so he applied to the court for the maintenance to be reduced. It seems that in the intervening years, the wife had not made any effort to find employment. It is also reported that the wife was rather evasive on questions about her own earning capacity. Her spousal maintenance was reduced.

This case is fact specific as are all cases you hear about, each case depending on the circumstances. There are a number of factors, not just the length of the marriage and ages of the children that are relevant to the financial outcome in each case.

How long after a divorce can a spouse make a financial claim?

The facts of the case of Wyatt v Vince have been widely reported in the press.  The parties divorced in 1992 and 19 years later Ms Wyatt applied, in particular, for a lump sum order against her former husband.  During the marriage the parties had had one son but Ms Wyatt already had a daughter of her own who was treated by Mr Vince as a child of the family.  They separated in 1984 and Mr Vince lived as a “new-age” traveller while Ms Wyatt brought up the children without any substantial financial contribution and in difficult financial circumstances.

Subsequently, Mr Vince set up a green energy business and became a multi-millionaire prompting Ms Wyatt’s application in 2011.  Mr Vince applied to strike out his former wife’s application on the basis of the delay in bringing the claim.  His application was initially unsuccessful but he appealed to the Court of Appeal where the judges agreed with him and Ms Wyatt’s claim was struck out.  She recently appealed successfully to the Supreme Court which has re-instated her claim and the case will go back to a lower court for a judge there to decide on the value of her claim.

What this case illustrates is the importance of obtaining a financial order at the time of any divorce proceedings.  In appropriate cases a court can make what is known as a “clean break” order that will ensure that parties do not have to face unwelcome applications many years after they have divorced.

 If you are in the process of separating or divorcing or want to review an existing spousal maintenance order AMD Solicitors can advise on all the financial implications.  We have offices in Henleaze, Clifton and Shirehampton and Anne or one of her colleagues can be contacted on 0117 962 1460 or by email to annethistlethwaite@amdsolcitors.com

Copyright AMD Solicitors

This article is provided for general information purposes only and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at the date of uploading. This article should not be relied upon as legal advice pertaining to any specific factual situation. Legal decisions should be made only after proper consultation with a legal professional of your choosing.

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