Saturday, 17 October 2015

Guardian readers' comments on UK divorce settlements

After a recent story on the Guardian website involving divorce settlements where wives were granted tens of millions of pounds, I thought it might be time to talk about CiF again.

In the story, 2 wives gained the right to re-open already HUGE divorce agreements (£10 and 30 million, If my memory serves) because husbands were ruled to have misled the court about how much they were worth.

The details are interesting, in one case the husband had stated that he was "considering floating his company". In fact he had more concrete plans than the word considering might imply. Even so, it seems remarkable that lawyers said they would have waited until they had a "clearer view" of his worth.

It almost sounds - perish the thought - that the wives & lawyers saw in retrospect that the flotation made millions, and then pounced. But to the CiF comments..

Aside from the many comments removed by moderators as usual (and some disappearing altogether), a few (men mostly) expressed angry disgust at the size of the settlement (some using terms like gold-diggers).

Interestingly, several of those responding to them basically changed the subject, saying "the issue is that these men lied in court".

It is important to note that this is a logical sleight of-hand. One issue is that the men lied, which, true or not, nobody is disputing..or even interested in. Another unrelated - but very important - issue is the rule which sees ex-wives able to divorce rich husbands for a fortune - none of which they have earned.

To say that "the issue is the lie" is simply to display temporary blindness to any other issue. All of a sudden the only thing these self-righteous CiF-readers care about is lying in court. One wonders why.

What else?

One exchange of note was apparently between an ex-husband who had been through divorce proceedings, and a character called jakboot who unfailingly took the women's side on every issue. I must say, jakboot's compassion was evident in the exchange:

I don't know about you, but there seems to be an element of glee in that question.

This being the Guardian, there was also the inevitable whiff of "it's happening to rich males, so who cares". If women in large numbers were being fleeced by similar settlements, you might reasonably expect journalists and readers who fret about women serving food at the table to be concerned about it. They might even wax lyrical about women who by their wit and hard work had deservedly made money, being "robbed".

But it's rich men, so no one on CiF really minds what happens to them.... Instead we saw a lot of huffing and puffing about how the men supposedly lied in court, some interesting discussion of the legal technicalities, and a baffling disinclination to discuss the amounts of money in question.

A family lawyer was most helpful in the comments, explaining many points. At one point (s)he was forced to admit, as an aside, that:

In terms of whether the wives "need" more, no, not by any stretch (perhaps in Gosil, not Sharland), and it's an issue that with the types of cases that get to this level, the sums in question are so high that it's difficult to care on an individual level whether they get more money. Or, on the flipside, whether the husbands pay more money.

To conclude...

It's understandable that the ex-husbands commenting on CiF are angry, but I also see that their anger is going to be represented as "hate" somewhere down the line, especially if their language is intemperate.

But a subtle point is how willing many posters were to avoid the issue of the colossal sums which ex-wives were paid - and they still wanted more.