Study exposes the myth that women are richer after divorce

There’s a general belief that women end up richer after divorce – having taken their husbands ‘to the cleaners’ women live of the proceeds of their divorce. However a recent study has exposed this as a myth, showing that the average woman’s income will fall by more than a fifth after divorce, regardless of whether she has children or not.

The study has been carried out by Professor Stephen Jenkins, a director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and chair of the Council of the International Association for Research on Income and Wealth.

Professor Jenkins’ survey, Marital Splits and Income Changes over the Longer Term, is the first study to monitor changing wealth levels in the UK as linked to divorce and separation.

Professor Jenkins’ research has found that the incomes of ‘separating husbands’ increase ‘immediately and continuously’ during the years following their divorce. Professor Jenkins said: “The differences between the sexes are stark. But this is not so much a gender thing as a parent thing. The key differences are not between men and women, but between fathers and mothers.”

The study shows that, when a man divorces without children, his income will immediately rise by 25%. In contrast, women will experience a significant fall in their income, with their financial position rarely reaching its pre-divorce level.

Professor Jenkins incorporated data from 14 British Household Panel Surveys carried out from 1991 to 2004, along with the results of five European surveys. The results of these surveys where then recalculated using the formula which the government uses to measure poverty to set new per capita incomes. Professor Jenkins discovered that the financial outcome of divorce can have such a positive impact on men’s finances that it can potentially lift them out of poverty, whilst women are much more likely to end up on the breadline.

According to Professor Jenkins, maintenance payments appear to make little dent on men’s incomes, as just 31% of divorced mothers receive maintenance payments from her children’s father.

Professor Jenkins said: “There are only two factors that have an impact on women’s financial position, post relationship breakdown. The percentage change in income is less if they have worked beforehand and continue working afterwards. The impact is also reduced if they start working after the relationship breakdown. There is also a potential positive impact if she remarries although the impact is a small one.”

However, in situations where a separated man has more children with a new partner whilst paying maintenance to his first family, the position can be reversed. Making men and women’s roles in the family and labour market more alike is the only way to level the playing field and Professor Jenkins added: “Until these fundamental issues change, these realities will remain essentially unchanged.”

Here at Dovetail Divorce we are a team of professionals who work together to help families through divorce. We’re committed to nurturing an amicable relationship between couples, keeping the interests of children at the heart of discussions and helping to build the foundations for a positive future apart. We use the collaborative route to divorce and if you would like further advice or information, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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