The amount a spouse might have to pay is decided on a case-by-case basis. There is no categorical answer and there is no formula: any payment will be at the discretion of the judge, who will make a decision based on a statute dating back to 1973. They have a very wide leeway to interpret that law. When it comes to capital, a rough-and-ready way of considering it is to look at what is ‘matrimonial’ – whatever is accrued through the marriage. There is no absolute fixed line, and the longer the marriage, the harder this can be to define. This matrimonial capital is divided equally, whereas everything else is kept separate. Then you analyze what your needs are in terms of a house, income and earning power – assuming it is a long marriage with children. You compare the results of both these equations, and you get the higher of these two numbers. In technical terms, this is a ‘sharing claim’ versus a ‘needs claim’.
If there is only enough money in the pot for one home, the partner in need of a house for the children will get the money. The economically stronger partner is sometimes upset by that. There is child maintenance, and sometimes spousal maintenance, to prevent hardship to one party if they earn less than the other. There is the question of whether spousal maintenance should be for a set term, such as until the end of the children’s education, or for life. Term orders are coming into play more often now.