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Equity in lieu of child maintenance

(24 Posts)
OneMoreForExtra Fri 13-Sep-19 17:32:53

Just doing a bit of planning ahead. DH and I are living as housemates, friendly companions but no longer a couple. DC are still primary age. In theory we could rub along like this for ages but at some point I'll want to draw a line. I think it's likely to be a year or so from now, when I'm hopefully going to be in a better paid role with a shorter commute. I'm the main earner.

I'd like to buy him out and stay in the house with the DC, minimising disruption, but even in an improved role things will be tight. He is a sporadic and low earner, and won't be able to afford any meaningful child maintenance contributions. Does anyone know whether it would be possible to agree a lower equity share against waiving maintenance, at least unless he earns up to an agreed level?

NB I want to be fair to DH, but feel like I need to set the next stage of life up for success. Having supported him through multiple failed work attempts for a decade, which is part of why we're now a parenting team and no longer a couple, I'm not inclined to lose out now.

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NotBeingRobbed Fri 13-Sep-19 18:10:52

No, I was told that wouldn’t be acceptable to the court because regardless of the consent order you would still be able to ask for child maintenance after a year.

OneMoreForExtra Fri 13-Sep-19 18:21:06

Oh sad

Thank you, NotBeingRobbed. That sounds like I'll lose out either way then, as I won't get maintenance and presumably still have to divide the equity equally.

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coragreta Fri 13-Sep-19 18:24:49

You could get an agreement drawn up. But

LemonTT Fri 13-Sep-19 18:39:54

The equity won’t necessarily be divided equally. If he is a low or sporadic earner he may need more to afford a home. It would be unusual but not out of the question. He may also want to have a say in how parenting is managed.

NotBeingRobbed Fri 13-Sep-19 20:21:28

I had a case like this. I don’t understand why an unreliable parent who doesn’t have the kids gets more equity than the reliable hard-working one who is housing the kids. Why does the dad come first? I don’t get it. I didn’t think my ex would pay regular maintenance (for kids not me) but amazingly he did because he knew the court would be watching (or thought so). Now he has 55% of equity signed sealed and delivered. I expect the child support will become flaky soon.

OneMoreForExtra Fri 13-Sep-19 20:24:29

So Lemon, could his low earning mean he actually might get more of the equity? I wasnt anticipating that - it's been entirely his choice to not get a grip job, and I've paid for childcare for years to allow him time and opportunity to work properly. I'd struggle to see how he would be entitled, especially if the point is to keep the DC in their home - the danger is that I wouldn't be able to buy him out and we'd have to sell up.

Re parenting, I'd hope for high involvement from him, he's a lovely dad. In fact, I'd push for mutual decision making on all of this, but our track record is a one-sided discussion followed by decision from me, he's extremely passive. Hence me wanting something fair and workable to propose. If I get it right we might be able to do it all without acrimony and (much) lawyers. So I really appreciate advice and experience on here!

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Cleopatrai Fri 13-Sep-19 20:26:20

Not really possible because you could go against the agreement and still ask for CM.

Moondancer73 Fri 13-Sep-19 20:30:37

I asked the court if I could sign something saying that I would t claim for child maintenance if my now ex husband waived his claim on the house (annoyingly it was never his anyway, it came from my gf).
The judge told me it couldn't happen because the children could suffer as a result - ridiculous when you think that my ex then went on to pay £5 a week for two children for years. It's pretty standard ruling though sadly.

OneMoreForExtra Fri 13-Sep-19 21:56:52

Ok, letting go of that idea then! Thank you for heading me off before I go too far down that road.

So now I'm interested in equity division. I think it would be in the DCs interests and preferences for them to stay in their own home and with me - with high involvement and contact from him. I think on a personal level we might be able to continue quite a good and friendly level of interaction, eg Sunday lunches and day trips all together. One of my motivations on separating is disentangling our finances as we gaveveholly different ideas about what reasonable aspiration and effort look like. I was envisaging if anything other than 50/50, the balance of equity should favour me as the person who put most in at the start, contributed most during the marriage, and picks up more of the parenting expenses going forward. But freaked out by the comment upthread that actually this could ho the other way - does anyone have experience either way here?

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OneMoreForExtra Fri 13-Sep-19 21:58:03

*have wholly

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OneMoreForExtra Fri 13-Sep-19 22:13:15

Moondancer I'll be in exactly the same position as you! A fiver a week doesn't really balance out a family home, does it, in the children's interests...

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Division of equity (and other assets) is according to need - not on the basis of who brought what into the marriage (unless it is a particularly short one). That is influenced by a wide variety of factors, including the ability of both parents to provide a home for the children (assuming they both are involved in active parenting), and the earning potential of each party.

Each of you would be expected to maximise your earning potential - so if he earns sporadically out of choice, then a settlement would be premised on the basis that he should maximise what he can earn. But if his earning potential is significantly lower than yours, and you both need a home where the kids can stay overnight, then yes - the odds are good that he will get a larger share of the equity.

I'm afraid it was ever thus - the higher earning member of the couple is routinely penalised in the divorce settlement, because they have less 'need' than the lower earner.

You will also need to think about pensions. From what you've said about his work, I'm guessing he doesn't have much of a pension? If you do, there's a good chance he can walk off with a good slug of your pension too.

And all of this is why I will never marry again - it's a mug's game!

NotBeingRobbed Fri 13-Sep-19 23:19:20

The law is completely the opposite of what you would think just. I also put in a much greater contribution all round - higher earner and did more of everything. My ex got 55%. I am the mum and have the kids - he doesn’t see them. I got less to support them with. The law is clearly designed to try and protect the RP and kids but is now used to get more for the NRP! It’s hard to understand the logic. My ex wasn’t disabled or anything - just terminally feckless and lazy!

OneMoreForExtra Sat 14-Sep-19 07:28:17

This is so depressing... and seems designed to drive a wedge into what could otherwise be an amicable parting of the ways. He's got perfectly good earning potential and a qualification. But due to low self confidence and motivation it's atrophied and now his track record and age will be big factors. I've picked up the slack, to the detriment of my own personal goals (eg he lost his job just as I was setting up as a freelancer to work flexibly till youngest went to school, 4 months later he'd made no serious effort to sort it out so I took massive job with huge commute and don't see the kids half the week. Etc etc.) All corrosive stuff which I'm sad to see will actually harm me and the kids. You're right NotBeing - opposite of just!

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NotBeingRobbed Sat 14-Sep-19 07:57:09

Yes I also picked up the slack for his lack of ambition and had a big job with extremely difficult hours. I would also like to have had more time at home. But the legal “logic” (illogical in our case) is that he has supported you and enabled you to get the big job! This is the SAHM argument, of course. But in the case of a SAHM the family may have made a definite decision for one to be at home and the other at work. In our case we both worked but I earned the most all the way through, was the responsible one in terms of sorting all bills etc, while he sat back and made me rush around like a slave by default. Now he’s laughing all the way to the bank. At least I do have the “big job” still - or rather a reduced hours version so I still see the kids - so I can survive.

NotBeingRobbed Sat 14-Sep-19 08:00:47

Of course he doesn’t have to rip you off and could agree to settle for less. But once they see the £££ signs their minds are turned. My lawyer even worked against me really, saying the court would not accept him getting less than half!! No real attempt to argue that maybe the person who earned 70% should keep 70% when she was also supporting the kids both financially and emotionally.

OneMoreForExtra Sat 14-Sep-19 09:42:34

Exactly! This would be completely different if it had been an agreed working pattern for him to do the home shift and me the income generation.

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NotBeingRobbed Sat 14-Sep-19 10:01:51

I’m afraid it did not work out well for me. He got 55%. Of course outsiders think I have “got the house and the children”. The truth is I had to buy him out so this is the house I have paid for twice over now! One child sees him occasionally for an hour at a time by choice and the other doesn’t want to ever see him again. But blokes will still be thinking “she got it all” blah blah blah.....

OneMoreForExtra Sat 14-Sep-19 11:29:51

MisplacedDad, do you know whether a pension entitlement is automatic? He does have a pension and has kept up payments into it - but is cagey about his financial setup so I don't know what size it is.

I was (naively, as it seems) thinking that an amicable split with a manageable and fair house equity division could be agreed with little legal wrangling - your experiences suggest this is rather unlikely.

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Yes, I'm afraid the pensions are part of the assets, and do have to be considered in the split. If you can reach an agreement through mediation, yiu have a lot of latitude as to what you agree. So, it is quite common for the lower earning party to take a higher portion of the equity, in return for leaving pensions alone, for instance.

If you can agree this way, you can have it all formalised in a Consent Order. A Judge will have to approve that, but so long as itnisn't manifestly unreasonable / unfair on one party, they usually approve them.

If you can't agree it between yourselves like that, the results become far less predictable, as a Judge has to rule on what they think is fair. It's pretty subjective. Always agree through mediation if you can.

Just to give you an idea, my ex got about 70% of the total assets. That included a higher proportion of the equity, and about 25% of my pension. We have a large earnings gap - I was stupid enough to support her when she wanted to go part time even before we'd had kids, and to support her staying out of the workforce for many years, even once both kids were at school. Oops. Lesson learned.

AMAM8916 Sat 14-Sep-19 12:53:31

You can still have an amicable parting of ways. If you both agree on who gets what etc, it's nothing to do with the court. If you agree on everything, you don't need to go to court at all. But bare in mind a solicitor will never advise your husband to walk away from equity or a share of your pension. They will literally lecture your husband on how giving up his rights is a bad idea

OneMoreForExtra Sat 14-Sep-19 19:41:46

This is really helpful. Thank you. Although I'm sorry others have been so badly stung. It's a really powerful prompt for me to have a (fourth and final) attempt to get DH into couples counselling and see what can be salvaged. How ironic that I've saved the house from his slacking off in the marriage, but walking away will lose it...

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