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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 May 2006, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Pain and expense of divorce
As the Law Lords rule in favour of ex-wives in a major legal ruling on two big money divorce cases, two separate divorcees tell of their experiences of dividing the assets after a break-up.

Dimitri was shocked when his wife asked for a divorce in 1989. With two children just starting school, he said he "proposed a reasonable settlement" of housing her and providing alimony for the children.
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"She refused to talk about it, and this went on for a year. Eventually I gave her an ultimatum of three months, and we ended up getting a lawyer involved."

She agreed to a financial settlement as part of a clean break and was required to go back to work. He continued to support the children for longer than was legally required, and still supports them - now aged 21 and 19 - through university.

He said the settlement that was eventually reached in the courts was almost identical to the one he had initially suggested, but ended up costing the couple about 40,000 in legal fees.

He said to avoid large court costs, an arbiter should be appointed to sort out a settlement between divorcing couples.

"That the wife should expect to get future earnings when the marriage is over is absolutely ludicrous. My experience of divorce is that the whole event is based on greed not reasonableness or the good of the children," Dimitri said.

He has had a successful and well-paid career but at no point felt compelled to share that with her.

"I didn't feel in any way morally bound to support her [with my future earnings].

"While she was looking after the children of course I supported her, but when the children went to school she had to go out and start earning."

Inherited house

Dawn separated from her husband almost two and a half years ago. It would have been her fifth anniversary shortly but soon after that she hopes to have her divorce finalised.

Emotions mean little in the face of cash and assets

She originally suggested an "amicable agreement" but her husband would not agree as he wanted an equal split.

As he had a poor credit rating, all their debts were in her name - which meant she was solely responsible for them, but anything in credit, such as savings or assets, were jointly theirs.

"My solicitor told me that the courts are splitting everything 50/50, unless there are special circumstances. While my circumstances are emotional, the courts won't take them into account."

If I earn all the money and have the house, but he doesn't contribute anything, then he shouldn't get anything
Dawn, 26
Before they married, Dawn inherited a mortgage-free house, and when they married she changed the paperwork so that they both owned it.

The house has risen in value from 70,000 to 160,000 - and her husband wanted half its value.

Rather than sell it, Dawn, 26, has taken a mortgage out to offer him slightly less than 50%.

"If I earn all the money and have the house, but he doesn't contribute anything, then he shouldn't get anything. Whatever you have earned, you should get back," Dawn said.

"But it's not just in monetary terms - it should be effort and work. He did do work on the house, and so he should get paid for that."

For those caught up in bitter divorce disputes over who should get what many would wish to come to a settlement as amicably as one couple, who agreed to share their wealth and sort out the legal agreement themselves.

The woman involved summed it up when she said it was "dead easy."

"Total cost 55. At one point I had to get a sworn affidavit from a solicitor who said, 'Don't tell everyone, you'll put me out of business,'" she said.

How much is a divorce settlement worth?
23 May 06 |  Have Your Say

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