Do I need to go back to work now that I am getting divorced?

“Do I need to go back to work now that I am getting divorced?”


Often in a marriage, one party gives up work in order to raise children whilst the other continues to work and often climb further up the career ladder, increasing their pension pot etc.  If the working party earns a sufficient income to meet the family outgoings then returning to work is sometimes the last thing on a parent’s mind when children are still very young.


In the case of Wright v Wright, in 2008, the wife was awarded spousal maintenance of £33,200 per year on an indefinite basis together with £10,400 per year by way of child maintenance. The husband was to also pay the children’s school fees. The wife had worked prior to marriage but had given up work to take care of the children.


The husband applied to vary this order four years later as his financial circumstances had changed for the worse. He also argued that the Judge had said in the previous proceedings that he expected the wife to start work again within two years of the order being made. He wanted to retire at the age of 60 but said this would have to be delayed until he was 65 as he had not been able to make sufficient pension contributions. The wife argued that the payments should remain the same.


The court found that the wife had not made any attempt to work after the order was made in 2008 and ordered a variation of the maintenance so that it would be scaled down over a 6 year period to give the wife time to find and settle into employment.  The payments would cease after the 6 years.


The wife asked to appeal this decision. At the time of the appeal the wife was aged 51 and the husband was aged 59. The wife was still not working and still looked after the children who were aged 10 and 16 despite the Judge in the original proceedings stating that ‘once a child is in year 2, most mothers can consider part time work consistent with their obligation to their children’.


The Appeal was refused as the court did not believe that the husband should continue to pay maintenance once retired.


Each case is different and will be decided on its own facts.  There is no set formula for how financial settlements are decided and the Judge in the case can use his or her own discretion to decide what they consider to be appropriate in the circumstances by taking into account the income and earning capacity of each party and balance this against their needs.


If you are separated and are concerned about whether you will be expected to return to work after divorce, contact one of our family law solicitors who would be happy to advise you further.

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