I’m a higher earner in a marriage – does gender make a difference?

Divorce specialist, Julie Cohen, discusses some potential surprises for high earners

The family courts see no difference between men and women when it comes down to financial matters on divorce. All statutes and procedural rules are applied in a gender-neutral way, and the law does not favour one gender over another.

Historically, in heterosexual relationships, men have more usually been the higher earners, as women were more likely to take time out of their careers to care for children and family. Society has moved on and women now take an active role in all aspects of the workforce, including the higher echelons. A good proportion of my clients are now women of power and influence. It speaks volumes for the evolution of our society.

But how does it fare in the divorce process? It is surprising to me, given the effort and sheer will of my female CEOs, managing partners, bankers, and consultants that some gender bias still exists even in their own minds. Some, for example, find it surprising to discover that they could be ordered to pay spousal maintenance to their ex-husbands or ex-wives. Some still believe that their own earned wealth or assets will remain in their possession post-divorce. Neither of these assumptions reflect matrimonial law. The law does not see gender so women, if they are the higher earning spouses in the marriage, will be just as responsible for sharing their wealth and potentially paying spousal maintenance as men would have been if the positions were reversed.

The takeaway from this is that planning ahead is important for all higher earning spouses, regardless of gender. You may wish to consider a prenuptial agreement if you have not yet married your current partner. If already married, a postnuptial agreement is a good planning and protection tool.

Equal sharing of matrimonial assets is likely to be expected of you, regardless of gender. There are circumstances where this may not apply, and proper legal advice will be of utmost benefit to you at the earliest possible stage in your divorce, as well as before you decide to take that step in the first place.

Contact Julie

If you would like more information or advice relating to this article or a Family Law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Julie Cohen by emailing julie.cohen@salaw.com or calling 01727 798067.

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