Case Study: Ron and Glenda’s financial settlement
Ron and Glenda decided to get divorced after 9 years of marriage. They had 2 children aged 7 and 4. The couple had grown apart and mutually agreed that they couldn’t save the relationship. They agreed that Ron would have some personal effects and the car. Glenda would have custody of the children and keep the house and all its furniture. After that, they would have a clean break and Ron would not have to pay maintenance.
Q: How did you both feel when Ron moved out?
Ron: I had left a short while before, and set myself up in a little flat, however the final “move out” was not easy. I had arranged with Glenda to go and collect my stuff when she and the kids were all out. My original plan was to have the stereo and books etc. and some bits and pieces around the house. When I got there I changed my mind completely. If I took the stereo there would be a gaping hole on the shelf, it would just look so sad somehow, so I left it and just took my records, cassettes and CDs. I grabbed the few clothes and put them in a black bag, left the keys on the kitchen worktop and left. I must admit I felt very emotional, and I remember thinking “where do I go from here?”
Glenda: To be honest I wanted Ron to collect his things and move on, not just for him, but for all of us. We all needed to draw a line under the marriage. I expected quite a lot of stuff to be gone when I got home, as we had agreed, but apart from a few things that were personal to him, he had not taken even the things we agreed on. I had decided to get rid of his stereo, and I had bought a new one so he could have had that. He had left a note saying that I could get rid of what was left – it was up to me. Material reminders of happier times are not a good thing, so I decided to be ruthless and get rid of a lot of things that reminded me of Ron.
Q: What happened when you put the house up for sale?
Glenda: Ron had been gone about 6 months. I had seen a smaller more manageable property that was in my price range, so I contacted an estate agent and had our place valued. Ron had signed the house over to me and I knew that the value had gone up since we had bought it. What surprised me was by how much. I could, if I got the asking price, clear the mortgage. I put an offer in on a cottage, and with help from my parents I managed to secure it. I was confident that I would sell our house quickly. Trust the property market to have one of its fickle moments just then, the value dropped and I suppose in hindsight I made a mistake in refusing an offer of just under the asking price. I eventually settled for an offer that was nowhere near what I wanted, but I could not afford to be paying mortgages on two houses, so I accepted. This left me short on the new house, but I managed.
Ron: Initially I was not surprised when I saw the house was up for sale. I saw the details in an estate agents window, and thought – best of luck to her. The deal had been that she kept the house and in return she would not come after me for any more cash, so I couldn`t argue. What did annoy me was when I heard she had refused an offer and then eventually had to settle for a lower figure. She always was a bit greedy. But it was her loss. I was in my bedsit and determined to start life a new life.
Q: Any regrets about the settlement?
Ron: Initially, no. I was free of any financial commitments apart from my rent and car loan. My decision was that she should have the house. It was a shame that things ended up as they did because it was a nice house and I did a lot of work to it to improve it but all the money in the world or the best house in the world cannot make you happy if you are not. I suppose I hoped someone else could enjoy it. Later, though, I began to think that I should not have not signed over the house, as maybe I could have had a say in the sale and maybe could have profited from it. As it was I had to start all over again which I felt quite bitter about at times. It had been all my hard work, both in earning the salary that paid for the house and in all the time that I put into improving it that had improved its value. I wanted the children to be settled in familiar surroundings and for Glenda not having a worry about mortgages etc. But sometimes it was hard not to feel resentful that all my effort had left me with nothing. I did try a few years later, to make a claim because I was desperate, but fortunately my solicitor made me see sense. I was trying to start a new life with a new partner and I felt that I was entitled to a part of the money. I have to say that the partner I was with then pushed hard for me to make the claim, and I am not with her now.
Glenda: My priority was the children and I did what I felt was best for them. Ron was not really in a position to pay me maintenance and the house was my cash settlement. I made a mistake not taking the offer on the house that was close to what I wanted, but that’s life. We are very happy in the cottage with no old memories to haunt us. The children are happier, a room each and a nice garden to play in and importantly no warring parents to cope with! I know that Ron felt resentful at times about what he had lost financially and the fact that in monetary terms I had not contributed to the house at all. But he wanted me to be a stay at home mum and I looked after him and the kids very well – he admits that. I had to have somewhere for the children to live and at the time he was very keen to make life as easy for us as he could. I think it is entirely fair that I got the house. I had two small children and had given up work to support my husband and raise the kids. Finding a job that paid me enough to pay the mortgage and childcare would have been impossible. And I never did ask for another penny from him for child support.
Comment: Dr Isabelle Hung
I think that going for the “clean break” option was a really smart move in some ways as it allows people to move on and steer clear of a very toxic topic. For example, in paying maintenance, some people find they are often having to check up on the ex to verify they are not making more money then stated.
However, if you give someone everything in order to have that freedom, you must both accept it for better or for worse. Therefore if someone makes a bad decision to sell it, you must respect their decision, however annoying it is.
Checking how much assets are worth before signing them away is also a step to take, that way, you are less likely to feel hard done by.
Finally, we think selling off or throwing out valuable things can be a little wasteful if you are simply going to replace them. We understand that they might be hard to look at when you first split, but over time, you will make new memories with them. Avoiding memories generally makes recovery slower. Accepting the memories as part of your life story is far better.
Lucy Davis is a co-founder of divorceclub.com and a TV Producer. She divorced 6 years ago. She is a passionate advocate for exploring the potential for change and creativity that can result from the trauma of divorce.