What They Really, Really Want? Divorce 'Penalty' for Women's Success At Work and Home

09/10/2012 16:50 BST | Updated 07/12/2012 10:12 GMT

The sight of the reformed Spice Girls at the Olympic Closing Ceremony reminded us how the group's credo - Girl Power - had been one of the abiding themes of the Games.

However, long before the female athletes of this year's Team GB successfully took to the field of play and even before Posh, Scary and company made their way in the man's, man's, man's world of popular music, sisters had been doing it for themselves.

The most recent study of official Government figures concluded that there were at least 2.7 million British women paid more than men and that the number had increased five-fold in the space of a generation (

It is an undoubted consequence of women capitalising on greater opportunities to progress in a wide range of professions. A Cambridge University report in 2009 ( underlined the extent of a situation which would appear to have only been consolidated by the economic downturn.

Building careers - and, in some cases, hugely profitable businesses - has not, of course, freed women from the need to juggle office hours with housework and childcare. Many have found that breaking through glass ceilings can count for little at home.

In some cases, their male partners have given up work to stay at home and be the 'house husband', enabling their higher-earning spouse to make strides at work.

Such circumstances are limited in number, though. Far more common are men who work but earn less than their wives.

I and my colleagues at Pannone have seen a threefold increase in female clients earning more than their spouses since 2009.

Many of those individuals complain to their divorce lawyer that there is a price to be paid when their marriages end. They believe that they are being "penalised" on divorce for being successful in their careers and working hard at home.

Some have told us that feel disadvantaged because courts take their earnings into account but not the amount of housework and childcare they do compared to their husbands when dividing assets.

This sometimes means that husbands walk away with a larger share of the capital assets, on the basis that they need more to help them make a fresh start after divorce because of their lower income, even though they have not have earned as much or made a comparable contribution at home.

Sometimes women find it difficult to accept that courts do not take into account housework and childcare - what has been described by some as "marital minutiae" - when deciding what a fair settlement would be.

A number of individuals who replicate in the home the sort of industry and effort which has helped them forge successful careers and get companies off the ground cannot accept that they may walk away from a marriage with less than their husband.

After years of juggling work and homelife, it can be a shocking consequence and an unintended spin on the title of their hit '2 become 1' which not even the Spice Girls could have foreseen.