Divorce ruling could apply to old cases
Lords decision means women may go back to court to claim more money
Clare Dyer, legal editor
Monday May 29, 2006
A landmark House of Lords ruling last week could open the way for hundreds of divorced women to go back to court for more money, according to leading lawyers.
The principle laid down by the law lords that women who gave up a well-paid career to raise children were entitled to compensation for their sacrifice has come too late for partners who divorced with a clean break. But those still receiving maintenance from high-earning former husbands could go back to court to ask for a big increase, lawyers said, even if their divorce was years ago.
This week the Law Commission, the official legal reform body, will unveil proposals to give unmarried partners who live together the right to claim limited financial support and a share of property when the relationship ends. The consultation paper, commissioned by the government, will stop short of recommending full divorce rights but will suggest a safety net to prevent hardship. A draft bill is due in August next year.
My first thought is that this ruling (similar to the recent one which made anonymous sperm donations illegal) was more of the tendencies of Great Britain to hold back the forces of historic change. Men clearly do not wish to be constrained by society in their behaviors. They wish to have sex freely, married or not, and if a pregnancy unexpectedly occurs, they wish to have the sole up or down vote on whether to be an involved father or not, pay child support or not, marry the mother or not, whatever.
Yet there is no obvious advantage for women in any of this.
Thus societies that allow men to avoid the responsibility to provide for womens' security and welfare, while still allowing men legal rights to the children women alone bear, will continue to decline in numbers.
Men just can't seem to accept the fact that this is something that woman is the final arbitrator of: IF, WHEN and how MANY children she'll ultimately bear. The old days are gone FOREVER as reproductive technology changed the equation.
Women now control their own bodies, reproductive choices and there isn't anything that is going to change that. If anything as the technology improves, it will get worse. Men will NEVER be in charge of those decisions again. Involvement with children will be a gift women chose to share with men, MAYBE, always contingent upon you being on your BEST behavior.
Okay, just to be clear.
So what to do?
I think the more sensible, but politically more difficult, way to handle it would have been to accept the irreversible nature of the change and allow women, who wished to be mothers but didn't have a husband, to access reproductive services and public benefits freely, openly, and without finger pointing on an as needed basis. This would have had the benefit of keeping women who wished to be mothers happy, the countries' population numbers stable as the idea caught on and having children through anonymous sperm donations lost its stigma.
Most importantly it would have shown men that if they wished to play at being head of a family (becoming a father), they would have to pay (through a marriage). Those who were actually concerned with being fathers would have married to do it as they have in the past and toed the line thereafter. Those who weren't would not have and thus have no rights or responsibilities to any children they carelessly spawned but could keep all their money/property for themselves (outside of taxes) and that would have shut them up.
NOW Great Britian has alienated most men by this ruling and while it has made most women happy, I see it as just a question of time before the law gets subverted by men from its original intent. Which is to provide women with the security that would allow them to bear children (and be a stay-at-home mother to them if they wished) without having to worry about economic penalties at some later date.
I guarantee you that looking back a year or two from now, women will have gained little or no real benefit from this law.
Just my opinion.
There is nothing so unusual about this ‘new’ law in Great Britain which allows women, who gave up their career to bear children and then become stay-at-home mothers, to be compensated adequately in the event of a later divorce. Frankly I think it makes a lot of sense as Great Britain, which is trying to get their population numbers up like every other industrialized country, has finally seen which sex is directly at fault for their declining birth rates and it’s clearly selfish men.
Women will have few children if they have to charge back to work again immediately after birth, not to mention the constant delays that inevitably ensue if she is forced to jockey for positions in her career choice. Frequently the time involved in this translates into no kids. We only need to look at the successful career women such as Maureen Dowd or Condi Rice in our own society to see the impact this has. As how many men at that ‘uber’ level would be alone with no children???
Anyway, their American cousins and many other countries have been following this formula for awarding alimony for years. Actually it doesn’t impact a lot of people as few couples today can afford to NOT have both parents working. Yet for the high-income men whose wives do stay home to bear and raise their children, then yes, it’s a good thing for those women and children and should be encouraged. Only a stingy cheapskate would be against his kids having their mother around when they are young and then him compensating her for that sacrifice later. Most of these men, who will be impacted by this, are worth millions, so too bad about them if they don’t like it.
In the US only 15% of all divorces include any award of alimony and only half collect (and this includes men who collect alimony as well after contributing nothing unique to the marriage, just because they can collect it), so this won’t be a big issue in most people’s lives. I’m sure Great Britain will follow the trajectory of the US pretty closely in this as it does much else since our societies are similar.
As always, men will now try to latch onto this ruling to benefit themselves and attempt to get alimony from so-called ‘high flying’ women, who frequently are just ordinary women who managed to buy a house before marriage or inherited a small sum from a deceased family member, but the bottom line is this sort of ‘sacrifice compensation’ needs to be limited to women ONLY. The ones who actually bring something unique to the marital relationship, womens childbearing capacity, This should not include some man who just up and quits his job one day and decides to lay around on the couch watching TV 24/7. Tossing a stale potato chip to the kids every once in a while during a commercial should not entitle you to anything.
So that aspect of it needs to be carefully monitored, but otherwise this ruling was ‘spot on’.
The other ruling from the House of Lords, which wasn’t mentioned in this article, pertained to fault being taken into account when settling marital property issues. This law is far more likely to affect ordinary people. Yet again, the Lords were spot on in their decision. The US also takes fault into account vis-à-vis property issues (at least many states do); although fault cannot be used to decide custody. Although frankly I think it should be used in the event of a tie-breaker custody situation, everything else being equal, the one at fault should forfeit custody.
Anyway to use fault to decide property issues is completely just. You’re a bad boy or girl during the life of the marriage and it causes a divorce, you should be ‘punished’ and a hit in the pocketbook seems to be appropriate for a capitalist society to use as punishment. I mean what else can we do, flog them??? Not that some of them don’t deserve it, as I could easily see that Charlie Sheen meriting a good whipping for all the stuff he does; yet we are in a civilized society, so must adhere to the norms of where we live.
Unfortunately in some cases...
Last, but not least the most interesting part I find is what they haven’t done yet, but are just looking into, which is the abililty to treat live-in relationships as if they were defacto married ones. I’m not completely sure this is right, especially if children are involved. Yet if it makes parents stop and think before they carelessly expose their children to a casual relationship by moving in with someone they hardly know, then it could morph into a good thing.
Clearly parents should know better but many don’t. So again what else can we do but hit them in the pocketbook when they exhibit unsavory behavior. Again, this is appropriate for a capitalist society to do. Parents who persist in exposing their kids to one live in relationship after another raise the sorts of screwy, unstable adults that impact all the rest of us negatively, so, the House of Lords could be spot on for three in a row.
These are ALL good rulings.
Men don’t like it, don’t marry, don’t have kids, actually go live on a desert island somewhere so you can just die off and not impact anyone else with your behavior. But don’t think that the societies that allow you to become as wealthy as you are will continue allowing you to use them for all your benefits, while giving nothing back but aggravation.
Of course, as I said above, these rulings were the lesser of two evils that the British lords chose to go with, since anything else would have caused too much unheaval in their society over the short-term.
Long-term these laws will just delay the inevitable change that has followed the advent of reproductive technology which has swung the balance of power in favor of women for the first time in history. It's application plays to womens' ONE essential strength, which is that we are the ONLY ones who are the bearers of life and can chose to quite simply not bear any. Thus, we can as passive/aggressive as we wish and still hold all the aces up our sleeves. It's called Anne Boleyn's Revenge for those history buffs out there: ie., "You're never going to have a son Henry or any other kids because me and my girlfriends just decided to form a bowling league and I can't bowl and be pregnant at the same time. Or a shopping league or need to be at work early everyday for the next decade. Truly sorry old bean. Why not get a little dog to play with instead?"
Women don't need to start any wars or invent some new destructive technology to wield this power either, that's the beauty of it.
Men, unable or unwilling to accept womens new status are the source of much of the current unroar, yet they will just have to get over it...