I came across an interesting article today concerning the happiness of people who have been through divorce. According to research carried out by Kingston University, published in the London School of Economic’s journal Economica, women fare better than men and are much happier with themselves and their lives, after divorce.
The university’s researchers conducted the survey over a 20 year period, on people in the UK between the ages of 16 and 60, accessing levels of happiness after major life events such as divorce. Apparently women can feel the benefit of ending an unhappy marriage for up to five years after decree absolute is pronounced; although men generally felt slightly happier there was much less reported impact.
The University’s researchers say they factored into the study ‘the fact that divorce can sometimes have a negative financial impact on women’, and I wonder how far this assumption has informed the outcome of the study. Although it took place over a 20 year period during which there has been significant developments in the court’s approach to divorce settlements, the importance of this ‘fact’ may have been over-emphasised.
Since 2000 and the famous House of Lords decision in White vs White there is no general trend suggesting a more negative financial impact on women following divorce. Equality is usually the name of the game, with equal emphasis now being placed on domestic contributions to family life when previously financial support was given more credit within any divorce settlement.
Moreover, many claim that divorce settlements favour wives particularly in those courts known to practitioners as more likely to endorse wives’ applications for spousal maintenance orders, for example, which are far more often made by wives than husbands. Not for nothing is England and Wales famously known as the ‘divorce capital of the world’; after all it is only in the last few weeks that former a former Miss Malaysia has been reported to be fighting tooth and nail to get her apparent £500m divorce from her husband heard in London, on the basis that she is likely to receive a more favourable settlement here.
Financial settlements almost certainly have a central role in post-divorce happiness, and the perceived pro-wife approach of the family courts may in reality be key in women coming out the other side as happier than men. Either way, in my experience both men and women are generally more relaxed and stress-free having completed the divorce process than they were at the point of separation, and this has its own value. There is no doubt that even the most amicable divorce is a testing period in anyone’s life, but perhaps that’s the price to pay for regaining happiness and contentment.
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