Housewives of Jersey and High Net Worth Divorces
8th February 2021
Image: Advocate Le Quesne and Advocate Corbett, specialist family lawyers
The Real Housewives of Jersey is currently on ITV and you can download the whole series on ITV Player.
So far the show has had over 2.26 million views and with Jersey’s population under 110,000, that means Jersey’s housewives (and Jersey) are getting more attention than usual right now. You have to be a high net worth woman to be a housewife in the new series, although not necessarily a housewife. Watching the show has made us think about what it means to be a housewife, and how high net worth divorces may differ from those of the rest of us.
Watching this from a family law perspective, some interesting topics emerge.
How long does it take to get divorced? Jane Rayner is not a housewife but is engaged to someone whose divorce is taking a long time. Some of the cast were shocked at her being engaged to someone who was still married and at how long his divorce is taking (they have been together since 2011). In the UK the average divorce, including finances takes a year. An uncontested divorce can take as little as 3-4 months. For example in Jersey if you filed for divorce and served the papers by 20 January 2021 you could be divorced on or shortly after 26 March 2021. However, if there are disputes over money or children, the process can be dragged out. Some court cases reported in the media have lasted over a decade. For the record, it is not illegal to be engaged to someone when they are still married but it would be bigamy, which is illegal, to be married to two people at the same time.
Kate Taylor is going through her own divorce and it is genuinely heart-wrenching to see that there are contact issues with her son playing out on TV like this. We hope very much that this can be resolved. In this situation Kate’s son is 21 so the court wouldn’t get involved. At some stage children vote with their feet. It isn’t clear what the issue is here but it is always sad when relationships are strained like this. Contact issues when children are younger can be exceptionally painful and damaging and can go on for many years. Children law is a very different matter to divorce and financial remedies.
The cast generally live the high life. Big money divorces are referred to as High Net Worth divorces, or Ultra High Net Worth divorces where there are hundreds of millions involved. Is the law different when you have lots of money? Yes and no. The biggest difference comes with the complexity from the type and variety of assets rather than the value of them. Having assets in different jurisdictions, or held in trust requires specialist knowledge. Investments may be extremely complex, business assets may be shared with other people, pensions and their values are often contentious, there may be several properties and complicated tax issues. You won’t find many people feeling sorry for those wealthy enough to have problems like these but from a legal point of view, a high net worth divorce is not the same. It is not simply a case of fighting over who keeps the family home with the best view.
Does being a housewife, especially one who doesn’t look after the house and perhaps even sends their children away to school, and has help with the things most people spend their waking hours doing, affect a divorce settlement? It used to be the case that women in this situation had the best of all worlds and would get rewarded more for doing less. However, the court is much more likely to expect a woman to return to work after a divorce now than previously. But where resources permit, housewives will be able to spend their time socialising and holidaying rather than housewifery if that is what their lifestyle and marriage has provided. If you were fortunate enough to be in that position, wouldn’t you want the freedom to do the same?
In terms of needs, a high net worth divorce should be easier to deal with. Many divorces focus on housing the family where there isn’t enough money to provide homes for both parties. Jersey is notoriously expensive (recently topping Numbeo’s list of the most expensive places to live in the world). The average cost of a 3 bedroom home in Jersey is close to £700,000 and there are many two bedroom flats in the island that sell for over a million. According to Numbeo, the cost of living in Jersey is almost 120% higher than the UK. Renting is also an expensive option and so housing can be the basis of huge acrimony and genuine and justifiable fear.
In big money cases, lawyers don’t have to worry that clients won’t be able to house their children. They also don’t need to worry about legal fees conflicting with the needs of the family. Indeed legal and expert costs in contested high value divorces can run into millions. Needs in this context really aren’t needs at all. It is more an evaluation of what is fair as between a couple, taking into account their resources and lifestyle. But heartbreak is heartbreak no matter what your resources.
I think one of the things you can see from the programme is that having oodles of money does not make you happy and it does not protect you from the ups and downs of life. What it does is mean is that everyday life is easier. It takes away the kind of basic worries most people have about paying the bills and saving for the future. It gives people choices. This is a huge advantage of course but emotional family issues are every bit as painful for the rich and famous as they are for anyone else. It is always kind to show empathy for others, we never really know what someone else is going through. Don’t let the big cars fool you.
Let’s just hope the pressures of being on the show and in the spotlight don’t affect the housewives of Jersey’s relationships.
Please contact us if you would like any advice. We specialise in high net worth divorces and have links with experts internationally to ensure we offer the best and most convenient possible service. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
For more information about the information covered in this blog post please see the links below.
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