11 years ago I made the mistake of marrying someone with little to no ambition in the workplace who then proceeded to become increasingly controlling at home and began having multiple affairs about 3 years ago. Unfortunately I understand that bad conduct has to be extreme for it to have any impact on the outcome of a divorce and therefore as the higher earner by some margin I might be bound to this emotionally abusive and controlling person for some years to come, maybe even for life. I would appreciate if someone could tell me straight just how bad it is going to be:
I'm the husband, aged 40 and I earn £87.5k. Bonuses used to be very good but have been terrible since the Brexit vote in 2016 and got even worse because of the pandemic and are now typically £4-5k per annum.
My wife is 39, she doesn't currently have a permanent job but has just completed four years of full time study. She has contracted out of term time and at weekends for the past 3 years and typically earns £15/h. She has not had a full time or permanent job for 11 years but I am hoping the fact she has been retraining for 4 years, is only 39 and can command £15/h means a court will expect her to be able to get a job for at least 20 hours a week at that rate (£15.5k per annum). My wife is also eligible for £750 per month UC and more for childcare (meaning she could work more than 20 hours).
There are three children, all boys, aged 11, 8 and 6. They are to spend 5 nights in every 14 with me and the other 9 with her. I would like a more even split in the near future but this arrangement means she can receive more CM from me in the short term. In practice they will probably spend more time than that with me, especially as she struggles to cope with them on her own for too long without a break without her having tantrums.
We have been married for 11 years and cohabited for just over 3 years before that.
I have a much bigger income than my wife but I have a £600 per month commute to earn it. I also pay her £800 in child maintenance per month. After commute and child maintenance my income is £3.2k and hers combines to £1.1k net earnings, £750 UC, £800 CM and £210 CB (£2,860 a month).
We own a home worth £400k but with a mortgage of £300k. The mortgage payment is £1.2k per month. This would rise to around £1.5k on standard variable and I have warned my wife that if she gets the Mesher Order she wants these normally come with a "best endeavours" to get me off the mortgage and I will not be signing up to any more fixed deals with her.
We also own cars worth £35k with loans outstanding on them of £17k. Our other assets consist of various chattels of little value.
I have a defined contribution pension and the statement says £160k although I don't know the CETV.
My concern is that my wife's lack of ambition is going to make her dependent on me for life and that the court will expect me to work until I'm 68 (or whatever the retirement age is by then) to meet her "need." I appreciate that often in a divorce one spouse, more often than not the wife, gives up a career to bring up young children and makes a big sacrifice that they can never recover financially from. I'm not opposed to spousal maintenance in principle for this reason. However, in most cases, recipients like this don't like being dependent on their ex and make some effort to earn their own money as a matter of pride. I don't think my wife will be like that. She didn't bother at school, left with barely any qualifications, dossed around in low paid work, took jobs, quit jobs and was stuffing envelopes at minimum wage for a living before our first child. If she gets offered spousal, she'll never bother getting a proper job even though she's spent 4 years training for one (in truth, I think she's only been doing it partly as cover for her affairs and partly as a way to avoid going back to work when the youngest went to school as previously agreed).
I also expect a court to give her almost all the assets because of her complete incompetence at meeting her own "needs."
I've spoken to two lawyers, one of whom said she'd get the lot and spousal; another who said it would be around 70/30 and no spousal and then I've spoken to various people on forums (dangerous I know) who unanimously told me my income wasn't high enough to pay spousal these days. Can anyone advise what the likely outcome will be based on their own experience?
I'm also not at all keen on a Mesher Order either but I doubt I can do anything about that (although a cohabiting trigger and a non-payment of mortgage ought to prevent it being for the next 12 years).
If your stbx is earning £15 per hour then that is way above minimum wage and bear in mind youngest child is only 6. Remember that all contributions to a marriage are seen as equal.
What is the house like? We don’t know where you live but £400k is expensive and there is a huge mortgage. Is it possible to downsize? If you're named on the mortgage for the next 12 years your chances of buying somewhere yourself with another mortgage are minimal to nil. Best endeavours realistically consists of her contacting the lender once a year and them rejecting the idea of her being the sole named person.
Spousal maintenance is based upon need and ability to pay. Is your ex likely to be able to demonstrate a need beyond her current income? How much spare cash will you have after paying rent for somewhere locally, CM etc? If there is an order for SM it is likely to be limited to the time your stbx could realistically be expected to work full time given ages of children.
If you have a DC pension then the figure on the statement is the value. CETV is for DB pensions where there is no individual pot of money.
I'm in the south so the house is bigger than it needs to be but probably not big enough to justify the transaction costs of forcing her to downsize. Like I said though, I will make a Mesher Order hard for her. I won't agree to pay any of the mortgage if I'm not living there, I won't agree to help her maintain it and I will insist on 50% of the equity when it sells. I might not get that but she would lose £30k taking it to a FH anyway and if I'm losing the money anyway, why not take a gamble...
On spousal it sounds unlikely. Again I would force her to spend £30k to find out and she really, really can't afford to let me go bankrupt on legal fees because the house would be repossessed and I would lose my job (and she her £800 CM) so that's a negotiating tactic too.