We are not suggesting that divorce proceedings will provide a remedy against an employer who pays men more than women for the same job, but the fact that women’s pay is in very general terms lower than men’s is nothing new. So, if you thought of the gender pay gap as an injustice that has only recently become widely recognised, take heart from the fact that it was in the minds of the parliamentary draftsmen who wrote the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. Section 25(2)(f) tells us that the Court shall have regard to:
”…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”.
The following apply equally to a husband who earns less, but in the main it is the wife who:
- may have taken a less well-paid job or worked part time to care for children – those contributions are given equal weight with the income produced by the other spouse
- has a lower income which would result in a lower standard of living as a result of the divorce – it may be that more capital resources are allotted to the wife
- is unable to support herself because of a low earning capacity – it opens the door for spousal maintenance (provided of course that the husband’s income is sufficient to pay it)
- has a smaller pension pot as a result of her work history – it means that a pension share can be taken from the husband’s pension pot and added to the wife’s pension to provide an equal pension stream on retirement
After all, the spouses came to a joint decision during the marriage as to how family life could be balanced against income needs. It would be unfair to backtrack on that if the marriage ends in divorce.
Many women recognise that they are in a weaker financial position and are extremely anxious as to what their position will be on divorce. However, the underlying principle is to find an outcome which is fair to both parties, and which will seek to redress an economic imbalance.