A man in Spain has been ordered by a court to pay his ex-wife $323,000 for 25 years of unpaid domestic labour.
The record divorce settlement was calculated by Judge Laura Ruiz Alaminos, based on the annual minimum wage throughout the couple’s marriage, i news reports.
The man must also pay his ex wife, Ivana Moral, a monthly “pension” of $800, as well as $640 and $960 to his 20-year-old and 14-year-old daughters respectively.
Ms Moral said she and her daughters were “left with nothing” when the couple, who married in 1995, divorced in 2020.
“Clearly this was a case of abuse to be completely excluded financially [by her ex-husband] with nothing left after my marriage ended,” Ms Moral told i news.
“So me and my daughters were left with nothing after all these years of putting all my time, energy and love in the family.
“I was supporting my husband in his work and in the family as a mother and a father. I was never allowed access to his financial affairs; everything was in his name.”
Ms Moral was asked to sign a separation of goods agreement when she got married – meaning he would keep his wealth and they would split common possessions.
The court, in southern Spain’s Velez-Malaga, heard that during the marriage, Ms Moral’s ex-husband, who was not named in the suit, built a successful gym business that allowed him to buy multiple luxury vehicles and an olive oil farm, valued at $6.4 million.
She said she hoped her case would inspire other women “to know that we can claim for housework when there is a separation of goods agreement”.
Ms Moral’s lawyer, Marta Fuentes, told i news the “ruling represents the labour of all the women in the shadows … who, without a doubt, constitute a fundamental support in personal, marital and familiar terms during years and years so that the ex-husband could develop his professional career and a rise in wealth which at the moment of separation could not share”.
“So he could get on in his career, she stayed at home to look after the children, and they never contacted anyone to help her,” Ms Fuentes said.
“She was his shadow, working behind [him] so he could rise professionally and become someone.”
Much has been said in recent years of the hidden toll of the mental load – the combination of cognitive and emotional labour, typically undertaken by women.
“The cognitive aspect of the mental load involves the scheduling, planning and organising required to support the smooth operating of families. This type of work ranges from organising a play date to planning dinner,” Liz Dean, Brendan Churchill and Leah Ruppanner explained in a piece for The Conversation last year.
“We argue this cognitive work becomes a load or the mental load when it has an emotional element, for example, when there is worry or stress attached to these tasks.”
American sociologist Arlie Hochschild, meanwhile, has termed women’s domestic labour done after work as the “second shift” – but, the trio said, “The mental load has no shifts – it can be done before, during and after work or even during time that should be spent sleeping.
“Ultimately, the mental load is a mental health issue and companies and governments should treat it as such. This will unburden families, and particularly mothers, from managing the mental load alone.”