Divorce Magazine

Fair Shares

By Judithmiddleton


Financial settlements are intended to reflect fairness; the division of assets takes into account various factors set out in law including needs and resources, and measured against what is invariably referred to as a “yardstick of equality.” Both spouses are meant to get their “fair share” although often there can be a sense of losing out when one or both parties’ innate sense of fairness may not correlate with the law itself. Not every separation needs to end in bitterness and an acrimonious court fight. Indeed where a couple can remain amicable, I never fail to be surprised at all the things that can be shared between them. With an increasing number of couples resolving issues by mediation or collaboration, sharing rather than dividing invariably finds potential for discussion, although it can only be properly embraced by those who are fully committed.

Top of the list is always the children and sharing the parenting of their little-ones rather than creating divisions reaps benefits for the whole family. They may be rare, but some couples manage to continue to share days together with their children and I’ve even known some still take a family holiday.

Pets too are capable of sharing. Fido doesn’t always split his time between houses but one partner can take their turn at dog-walking especially when they want a companion for a long distance ramble.

Then there are keepsakes. The prize trophy won together in the best kept garden competition transposes from mantelpiece to mantelpiece every six months.

The timeshare too is a popular choice. With the potential for a loss on sale, many couples decide to retain their joint ownership and take their holidays and pay the fees in rotation.

Insurance policies are often continued on joint lives for joint benefit especially if there is the prospect of a large final bonus or life cover to benefit children perhaps to defray inheritance tax or help meet their upkeep.

Fields can provide grazing for one person’s sheep part of the year and be ploughed for the other’s crops the remainder.

A barn or other building in need of renovation is often continued as a joint project, enabling gains to be maximised and divided.

Cars are sometimes shared, perhaps where one person works at the end of a public transport route and has no need for the family car during the week but needs it for occasional weekend trips or to facilitate contact arrangements.

Lawyers never like this but there are even couples who keep a joint bank account for ease in managing one household’s finances and on the basis that they have agreed the ground rules for operating the account.

The one that always amazes me though is when someone tells me that although the marriage has broken down and they find it intolerable to live with their spouse, they intend to remain in partnership to run their business together. Some never manage to do so and the business relationship breaks down amidst the same rancour as the marriage, but others succeed in building vibrant, thriving enterprises together. As one entrepreneur told me: “A business partnership is like marriage in that you are tied together by a contract and money. Unlike marriage though, you are not expected to share a home with your business partner.”

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