No-fault divorce is a 'cheaters' charter' which will damage marriage

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The Government is setting out to destroy the foundations of marriage by allowing cheating or bored spouses to walk away from a solemn, lifelong commitment whenever they choose and with the full support, and even encouragement, of the state.

It's all very well for the Minister to claim that he will always uphold the institution of marriage but marriage is being turned into an agreement with less security than a tenancy contract. This is not what people want. If it was they would not commit 'until death them do part'.

It abandons the principle of the state supporting those who take personal responsibility. No-fault divorce could see a person divorced, have their access to their children ended, their assets divided and themselves removed from their home by court order, all despite being faithful to their marriage vows.

What is particularly concerning is the Government's own impact assessment conceded that these changes will lead to a spike in the number of divorces and broken families. Based on previous reforms, this spike is likely to become the new normal.

Children do better in married households, even when there is conflict. It will be highly detrimental to outcomes for children to encourage more couples to end their marriages.

The Minister's response to insert a cooling off period is wholly inadequate.

Under our well established current system thousands of couples start legal proceedings, but don't go through with them. Some of these will be reconciliations. The marriage is given another chance. Most people know those who have been through very rocky patches in their marriage but stayed together.

It is concerning that advocates of no-fault divorce are so dismissive of the possibility of reconciliation. The in-built delay allows calm reflection and for one or both sides to pull back from the brink. A more hurried divorce process makes reconciliation less likely. No amount of convenience to the legal system could possibly justify this.

Rather than scrapping this, we should be adding in additional support, such as counselling to help more couples to stick together.

In the late 1990s the Government trialled more support for married couples but abandoned it after just a few months due to the costs. Yet we know from government studies that children from broken homes are up to five times as likely to suffer from poorer mental health than those whose parents stay together, more likely to live in poverty and perform less well at school.

No-fault divorce is incompatible with both the weight of evidence that shows marriage is the gold standard of relationships and needs support and the Government's obsession to appear to be 'progressive'. There is nothing progressive about this cheaters' charter.

Colin Hart is the Chairman of the Coalition for Marriage and The Christian Institute

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