Reasearch Seminar: Short-changing career sacrifice? A critique of the courts’ approach to lost earning capacity on divorce


The courts have a wide statutory discretion to make financial orders on divorce. In the case of McFarlane (2006), the House of Lords highlighted the need to ‘compensate’ a spouse who had made a career sacrifice for her lost earning capacity as one of the main rationales for the exercise of this discretion, along with meeting needs and sharing the fruits of the marital partnership.

This paper will argue that the message from McFarlane was intended to be that a spouse in a dual career family can make a career sacrifice for the sake of the family in the knowledge that, if the marital partnership ends, she will not be left to bear the brunt of the financial consequences. The High Court judges have refused to apply compensation in this spirit and have failed to compensate exactly the sort of women that the House of Lords intended to benefit. The paper will demonstrate that the High Court’s approach is manifestly inconsistent with McFarlane. It will argue that this approach sends a message that de-values non-financial contributions and will suggest a better way forward.

Everyone is welcome to attend – it’s in SB 3.06 1-2pm on Monday 24 April.

Thanks very much.


Lucy Crompton – Senior Lecturer, School of Law, Manchester Met.


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