I was delighted to be asked by BBC Breakfast to comment on the emotive subject of Kathleen Wyatt’s claim against her ex-husband, the ex-hippy, vegan, green energy tycoon (and multi-millionaire) Dale Vince this morning. And what a hot topic it seems to be.
Before I even start writing this piece, I would like to point out that I do not know any of the individuals concerned in the recent divorce rulings I am about to discuss. I do not believe that any of us will ever know the complete details, so my views are based on the various (and numerous) media reports that have been broadcast and published in the last couple of days.
The Kathleen Wyatt case comes at an interesting time, given the recent ruling against Tracey Wright, (former wife of the Newmarket equine vet), where Lord Justice Pritchford said that Mrs Wright should “just get on with it” and find a job like “vast numbers of other women with children”.
It would seem to me, and quite a number of people I have spoken to today, that these two cases seem to be quite at odds with each other. And not surprisingly some are finding it worrying and confusing.
In the case of Kathleen Wyatt, it would appear that she has brought up Dale Vince’s son without any financial support from him. Ultimately, Mr Vince is the father of the child, and in moral terms at least, he really should take financial responsibility – just like everyone else does. And in fairness to Kathleen Wyatt, it would seem that she is not asking for a percentage of his wealth, but ‘back payments’ of maintenance. Maybe she’s asking for too much. The court seems to indicate that she is aiming too high. But she has to start somewhere.
I hear gasps of shock and horror from the men in the crowd!! The Vox Pops are full of outrage and protests that after such a long time, given that his wealth was accrued post divorce, she should get nothing. Why not? IF his total lack of financial responsibility for years and years is the cause of her having to claim benefits, maybe us taxpayers should have a refund too? Hmmm….
Sadly, this leads me straight back to the case of Tracey Wright – and for those of you who missed that story, in brief, Mrs Wright has had a judge reverse a previous order for maintenance. Her problem is quite simple and I see and hear this time and time again. In order for Mrs Wright to work, she has to pay someone to look after her child. She does not have a highly paid job to return to, so in practical terms, she is unable to earn more money that she would have to pay out in childcare.
Many women are in the same situation as her. After having more than one child, the economics of paying for two children to have childcare is often unviable – unless there is a sharing of duties between the parents, and possibly a support network of grandparents. In addition, the parents may have mutually decided that they want one parent to stay at home to raise their children. Sadly, this mutual agreement seems to be very frequently and conveniently forgotten by some men during a divorce.
And with all this frenzied debate about money, who is entitled to what, whether ex-wives are just after a ‘meal ticket for life’ (which I think suggests laziness!) and told to ‘get on with it’ and get a job – not ONCE has the welfare of children been discussed. In Mrs Wright’s case, the judge suggested that women with children over the age of seven should get part time work. I am curious. What magically happens to a child when they turn seven?
As a divorcee, I will carry eternal guilt. Every time one of my children does something they shouldn’t, I question whether it is a result of their parents divorce. It is therefore crucial to me that their lives are kept as stable as I can possibly afford for them to be. Like many women I speak to, I would and do forfeit a considerable amount to ensure that their lives are kept as close as possible to the ones they had before my divorce. Obviously there have to be changes. But what I will never fathom is why one judge can so badly undervalue motherhood, whilst the Supreme Court is pilloried for suggesting that motherhood has value – because that was the point of the ruling.
Everyone has a standpoint on these matters. It is normally the standpoint that best suits them (and I am sure I’m as guilty as the next person on that) and arguing will never resolve it. The only solution is to stop these situations from developing in the first place. Personally, I believe that the welfare of children should be put first; no one should be granted a Decree Absolute unless they have a financial agreement in place; and once in place, the agreement should not easily be overturned.
No matter what your standpoint is, I hope that you will agree that post divorce, everyone should be allowed peace to get on with their lives.