'Everything I had went into the family pot'

For one woman, and thousands more, a new law will come too late
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The Independent Online
WHEN Sallie Quin's husband walked out on her and their teenage daughter seven years ago it was the beginning of a relentless financial struggle.

Like thousands of other women, Mrs Quin believes that she is entitled to a share in her former spouse's company pension because it was intended as a nest-egg for both of them.

She said: "If I hadn't ironed his shirts every week, taken his suits to the dry cleaners and looked after him when he had sciatica I don't think he would have held down his job. I earned a right to that money.

"It's the principle that counts ... When he got paid and I got paid the money was pooled ... Everything that I had went into the family pot.

"The woman he left me for was with him for two months at the firm where he had worked for 22 years. I had been with him for 17 out of those 22 years. She had been with him for two months and then he quit. Now she is going to get my widow's pension."

Mrs Quin, 53, now works voluntarily for FairShares, a pressure group that campaigns for fair division of all assets, including pensions, on divorce.

She relies on income support to pay the mortgage on their family home in Chichester, West Sussex. She said: "There is not enough equity in this house to sell up and move on. I can't find a job that will pay enough money to cover a mortgage that was based on my husband's salary." She said that she and her husband had made a joint decision that she would work part-time and look after their child so she was not a "latchkey kid". "I worked part-time. My money covered things like school uniforms and school trips and the odd holiday. It was the normal set-up," she added.

After Mrs Quin's husband left her in 1991 he left his job, at the age of 49, and began to draw his pension at the end of that year. She says that although their matrimonial assets amounted to pounds 250,000, she was left with less than a quarter of that: "I got the equity on the house and the endowment policy and a second-hand car, which all amounted to pounds 54,000."

Sallie, who will gain nothing personally from a new law, says she is campaigning to establish a principle. She is determined that her daughter, now a 22-year-old university student, should not be forced into the same position.

She said: "FairShares must have had calls from 12-15,000 people. About 100 of them are men. I think that proportion will increase over time."

Linus Gregoriadis