The journalese of divorce
The law recognises the length of a marriage and relevance of non-financial contributions, so why doesn't the media, asks Pippa Allsop
The media has been feasting on yet another high-profile divorce recently, that of Richard Caring, the 68-year-old 'restaurant and fashion tycoon', which has already speculatively been dubbed as 'the UK's biggest ever divorce' through a simplistic division of the multimillionaire's estimated net worth of £750m.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the headlines have focused on Mr Caring's new relationship (and young son) with a Brazilian property developer, as well as his age in comparison with hers (35). Observing the case through a legal lens, some of the language and phraseology adopted in the reporting has caught my eye.
Despite the longevity of their marriage, the media slant is very much what share of her husband's wealth Mrs Caring can expect to receive, as opposed to how their accumulated matrimonial wealth will be divided. To my mind, the distinction between these two angles is significant.
Mr and Mrs Caring married when they were both in their early twenties and had remained so for over 40 years at the point they separated. They had two sons during their marriage, both of whom are now adults.
When they met, apparently Richard Caring had already started building his fortune and Jacqui Caring had established a career as a model. Mrs Caring gave up her modelling career shortly after meeting her prospective husband '“ some have stressed apparently only three days afterwards, clearly in an attempt to expose a supposedly 45-year-long gold-digging exercise culminating in her husband leaving her for a woman over 30 years her junior. Quite some master plan on her part.
In addition, much of the terminology that has been used perpetuates the same message again and again, hammering home the notion that Mr Caring is facing a 'huge payout', or even a '£350m bill', and that his wife is going to receive a 'windfall' '“ thus somehow insinuating that Mrs Caring is winning a prize as a result of her divorce, and moreover, by implication, one she doesn't 'deserve'.
There would seem to be little doubt that Mrs Caring has lived a very financially fortunate lifestyle. The question is, however, whether having had the luxury of chefs and nannies and the like really detracts from the fact that for over four decades she, Mr Caring, and their two sons were a family unit, taking the rough with the smooth.
Does their wealth detract from her contribution as a mother and as a wife? Can it be automatically assumed that without her continued support, Mr Caring would have been as successful and accrued the wealth he did during the marriage?
It seems rather unfair that while the law plainly recognises the length of the parties' marriage and non-financial contributions as relevant circumstances, which should be taken into account when determining the division of the matrimonial finances on divorce, the media and the public do not share the same view.
Pippa Allsop is a solicitor at Michelmores