Tuesday, 31 March 2009

what's it worth?

as a chartered accountant, i'm required to complete at least 20 hours of structured professional development every year. which means that i attend courses put on by various tax specialists, by the institute of chartered accountants and sometimes by lawyers - accountants are dealing with various aspects of the law after all.

today i spent a few hours getting a refresher on property relationship laws, particularly where they intersect with the setting up of trusts. i particularly hate going to these types of courses, because the underlying theme always seem to be that women are bloodsucking leeches (sorry, my girls have twilight fever & it must be catching!) from whom wealthy men must protect their property.

sometimes it's pretty overt, other times covert. but it tends to be pretty consistent, particularly in the way that case law is presented. today we had a woman presenter, so it wasn't as bad as usual, but still...

for example, we had a case of a man who loved antique cars, and bought a rundown old dump for some small amount (say $500) and spent another small amount on parts. the bulk of his input was the time he spent doing the thing up. lo and behold, when he had completed the task, the car ended up being worth $80,000.

and he had to pay half of this amount to his ex as part of the divorce settlement. and pretty much everyone in the room (even the women) shook their heads at how unfair this was. me, totally annoyed on the inside, said lightly "well, she was probably spending all her time raising the kids while he just mucked around in the garage", which got a couple of chuckles.

but i hate it. i hate the way these things are presented all. the. time. i hate the way that women's contributions are so undervalued because they happened to be unpaid, and that any large settlements they get are seen as undeserved. i don't have time to do the research now, but from what i recall, divorce settlements in the country are hardly generous towards women. it's one reason why single mothers feature so highly in our poverty statistics.


Cactus Kate said...

Said it before and I will say it again for women.

If you want to be "valued" in monetary terms then make the man pay you a salary for staying at home that is equal to the career you sacrificed.

If he can't afford that or doesn't wish to pay then simply don't marry him.

If you had no career to sacrifice then this is the answer to your question as to why women should get far less in a divorce.

Br3nda of coffee.geek.nz said...

@cactus: who goes into a marriage planning for the divorce?

Br3nda of coffee.geek.nz said...

The bigger problem is why is it still the women who almost everytime bring less money into the home?

I had lunch with an intelligent friend only yesterday claimed babies need their mother at home. It came down to breastfeeding. I explained what a breast pump was, now he's convinced either parent can raise a child after all.

But our own government infomation on maternity leave assumes the female parent is going to take the paid leave. I couldn't be the online calculator to ever come up with the male parent recieving paid parental leave unless they were in a same sex relationship or adopting.

Women earn less. In New Zealand. The land of Kate shepherd. We take large breaks from our careers, and often struggle to get back into the work force

Were more than half the population. Are we happy with our lot?

Deborah said...

There was a judge in Australia who opined that a person who brought special talents to a marriage should be entitled to a greater share of the marriage's assets on its dissolution, totally ignoring the practical reality that for one partner to have the freedom and space to develop (usually) his special talents, the other had to neglect her own career and talents, and devote herself to running the household. That could be a perfectly good bargain to make, but a consequence of it has to be that all the rewards of the special talent are shared.

Anonymous said...

I reckon my abilities to gestate and lactate are pretty damn "special". I could go to Uni and learn how to do what my partner does but he doesn't have a shit-show of doing what I do.

stargazer said...

yup, agree hungrymama. and if i had to put a monetary value to going through labour pains, gestation & lactation, and a value to having brought up kids that are happy, healthy, educated and productive members of society, i would say that it would be in the hundreds of thousands. plus add an amount for the hours of unpaid work done around the house. then add the "career sacrifice" salary to all of the above, and i can't see why women should get any less in a divorce.

it just shows what kind of work we value in a society, and obviously we don't value work that doesn't involve a "career" in the paid workforce. pretty sad.

M-H said...

Oh Kate, if only it were that simple. Raising children is a team effort. You can do it on two incomes, which is really hard but you may have more money - which my or may not help with the hard work of raising kids - and neither of you feels they have made any sacrifices. Or you can do it on one income if you both make sacrifices - the one who works loses the freedom to spend all of the earned money and the stay-at-home partner sacrifices some career time. Most people who do that consider it to be worthwhile - at the time. It is only later that suddenly the one who didn't get a salary (usually the woman) becomes seen as some grasping shark-like figure, determined to get more than their fair share of the assets that have been jointly built. Bullshit, I say. Of course she was raising the children (and probably cooking the meals and keeping the house liveable) while he fiddled around in the garage. They're his children too.