City crisis takes its toll on marriage
Job-losses mean divorce rates are rocketing, finds Anusha Bradley
When the credit crunch bit, it was clear that banks were going to suffer and that things would look grim for many businesses. What was less predictable was the effect that it would have on divorce rates.
According to a survey commissioned by law firm Mishcon de Reya last month, a fifth of analysts, stockbrokers and hedge fund managers in the Square Mile know a colleague who has been issued with divorce proceedings since the slowdown began. One in 10 were worried their own spouse may be seeking legal advice.
“It’s very sad, but it’s reflective of the environment in which people have become used to a certain lifestyle and if there are difficulties, rather than fixing them, they capitalise and move on,” says divorce lawyer Sandra Davis, a partner at the firm.
The frizzy-haired, straight-talking 52-yearold heads up the firm’s family law practice and over the last 20 years has sealed her reputation as a robust litigator with a string of high-profile client divorcees, including Diana, Princess of Wales.
She says that there’s never been a better time for women to divorce – nor a worse time for men. Record numbers of wives are seeking separations from their workaholic husbands as thousands of jobs are cut and bonuses are slashed across the Square Mile.
One of the reasons for the high divorce rates is that British law is very generous to wives. When a typical marriage ends, women and men receive an equal spilt of assets, while recent cases have also negotiated the way for City wives to get a slice of their ex’s bonuses and invested share options.
Davis’s legal peers cite her as “formidable”, “no-nonsense” and “a premier-league lawyer”. It’s easy to see why – she’s highly opinionated and admits that she’s not afraid to take centre stage.
But while her views on divorce might cause male dinner party guests to turn pale, she’s surprisingly sympathetic to the plight faced by high-earning men in the City.
“These poor men who operate 24-7 in an incredibly stressful environment, provide a way of life to compensate for that. And when the ability to spend unrestrictedly is no longer there many find they have difficulties with their wives that they’ve not foreseen,” Davies says.
“I think many men feel that going out and operating at the coal face isn’t the same as living at home and perhaps having a housekeeper, a nanny and a trainer.” Davis predicts more men will use pre-nuptial agreements to protect themselves from what she calls the “investment spouse”.
She also says that men should realise that gold-diggers do exist. “I don’t think men are aware that there are some women who simply hang about in night clubs looking for an investment in marriage and is going to bail out after two or three years. The City worker is very vulnerable to that,” she says.
However, Davis says money is not the root cause of most divorces; a breakdown in communication between partners is to blame. She herself has been married for over 20 years. So what, for her, is the secret of a happy marriage? “To have a sense of humour. That, and I’ve had a fantastic nanny for over 15 years to manage my house, my children and my life,” she grins.