UK Perspective: Emily Brand, partner and head of family at Winckworth Sherwood

April 4th, 2017

‘I advise clients to focus on the important things’  

Imagine a German man who is married to an English woman and working in the City. He may be delighted at the prospect of moving to Frankfurt – she may not be, particularly if she doesn’t speak German. And parents will be concerned about the disruption of removing children from school. The couple might decide that one parent will move while the other stays behind, at least in the short term. These stresses – balancing the conflicting demands of home and career – may bring a relationship to breaking point.

‘Relationship planning’ is now more common. Managing expectations from the outset – with nuptial and cohabitation agreements – can often promote happiness over the long term. For example, if one partner expects to stop working to care for a child, and wants their spouse to support them, it is better to make this expectation clear from the start.

There’s less of a sense of a ‘meal ticket for life’. There has been an increasing focus on how long maintenance should continue to be paid to spouses – usually wives who have cared for children. Returning to work once a child starts school is becoming the norm, so there’s less sense that a non-working parent is entitled to ongoing financial support.

Avoid paying your lawyer more to fight over an item than it is worth. I always advise my clients to step back and focus on the important things. When emotions are running high, spouses tend to fixate on the smaller points of contention, such as objects that hold sentimental or symbolic value – and it can become expensive.

The parent with full-time care responsibilities (usually the mother) still tends to be worse off after divorce. Even though the courts are now properly recognising the contribution made by a non-working spouse, women are often left to face a daunting financial future.

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