I had a gentleman come to see me at our Free Clinic on Friday 28th March. He started the meeting by telling me that he realised that “she [being his estranged wife] would get everything and would take him to the cleaners” in relation to finances and residence/contact of the children. What he was obviously suggesting is that he felt there was no level playing field (from what he had read in the media with regards to Father’s 4 Justice etc) when it came to deciding whether the children should have their primary homes with their mothers or fathers and that she will obviously get more than him from any financial split.
Family Law is biased in favour of women?
I explained to this client that the current legislation is gender neutral in terms of contact and financial matters. In fact, according to Bareness Butler- Sloss, the ex president of the Family Division, speaking during the community stage of the Children and Family Bill in October, “there is no evidence of bias in favour of one parent.”
In addition, more and more Courts in England and Wales are favouring joint residence arrangements for children. Further, our financial legislation, ‘Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973’, contains an exhaustive list of relevant factors when determining matrimonial finances on divorce and ‘Section 1 of the Children Act 1989’ makes it clear that the Court’s job is to establish the children’s best interest and then to protect them (irrelevant of whether a decision is in favour of mother or father’s application).
Further protection for unfair and uneven financial settlements has been helped by prenuptial agreements. Since White in 2000 (establishing the principle of equal sharing of assets on divorce), husbands in wealthy marriages began trying to protect themselves with prenuptial agreements. It could be argued that prenuptial agreements were rarely effective until the Supreme Court heard Radmacher Granatino in 2010. Since this case, where a very wealthy chairman heiress was successful in persuading the Court to uphold her prenuptial agreement, prenuptial agreements have carried significantly more weight protecting both men and women.
Despite the fact that it can be argued legislation is gender neutral, in some cases it can be argued that Judges have not been gender neutral when interpreting the law, having had witnessed some examples of the Courts treating women and men in entirely different ways. However, there have been rumors that change is in the air; roughly 3 years ago Bareness Beach made an expressed view that she does not think it was in the interest of women never mind men that the Courts are very protective over women.
In my experience, however, in general, the local Courts do make decisions that implement the Law fairly, with no gender bias. In light of this, I was able to assert to the Free Clinic gentleman, who asked is family law is biased in favour of women, that he would get a fair and unbiased outcome if he pursued financial matters and children matters through the local Court.
For any advice or information on finances and custody contact our family team at one of our offices in Boston, Grantham, Lincoln, Sleaford, Spalding and Newark or contact Marianne on 01476 590200.