Wednesday, 4 January 2012


Of all the things right wing pundits talk nonsense about, marriage and divorce are pretty near the top of the list. I hear people say "we should make it harder to get divorced" or "we should give people cash incentives to get married". To me it just shows how detached from reality people on the right of politics often are. If you give people cash incentives to marry, surely they will be far more likely to find themselves in relationships with people they don't like, from whom they will eventually get divorced. As to making divorce harder, are we really saying that raising children in an environment where there is constant strife is good for their development. A few gold diggers excepted, I doubt anyone gets married thinking they will be getting divorced. We do it because we like someone and we want to be with them and show a commitment. When we find that they are not what we thought (this can take a while) and we realise we don't like them, are we saying it is the job of the state to say "No, you must stay with this person you don't like". As with many things in society, often the people in the Daily Mail who write such stories have often had a string of divorces themselves.

Don't get me wrong, I believe that by far the best environment for having a family is a happily married couple, who get on with each other. In a perfect world all children would have such a home. That doesn't mean that I think single mums fail their children, they just have to work twice as hard to ensure they get a decent upbringing. I've plenty of friends who are single parents. I'm sure all of them work at it far harder than I do at it and I'm certainly not saying their children have suffered, it is just a harder gig.

It may sound perverse, but I'd actually make it harder to get married and offer no financial incentives at all. You see, I'm a bit old fashioned. I think that the only reason you get married is because you love someone and it should be a positive commitment, not a route to back door tax breaks. We all do crazy things when we first hitch up with someone and are crazy about them. I'd make people have to wait three months before they could get married, rather like the backout option on an insurance policy. I honestly believe that if you are planning a lifetime, you should be able to wait.

As to divorce, I don't believe it is the job of the state to stop people. I do believe that the state has a role to play in taking the acrimony out of the process. If children are involved, I would allow courts to hold up granting of divorces until childcare arrangements had been agreed (unless one party was being unreasonably intransigent). I would take unreasonable behaviour into account in settlements. I don't think it's fair that someone can be treated appallingly and be financially shafted into the deal.

Like many areas of law in Great Britain today, the vast majority of problems are caused by the fact people feel they've been treated unfairly. What is sad is that the people who run the country never seem to understand that unfairness is the thing which we find hardest to deal with.

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