Thursday, November 20, 2008

'Breakthrough Britain'

This week the media and several family blawgs have covered a review of family by Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, proposing family law reforms to strengthen families by making it more difficult to divorce.

From a personal point of view the idea that divorce is easy and people should work at their marriage somewhat irritating. I am not into 'informal relationships' and in the last 32 years only had the one relationship, our marriage. I tried very hard to save the relationship of 23 years for 7 years. It then took another 4 years of living in limbo to negotiate, reach a settlement and divorce. Anyone who believes that is too easy is out of touch.

It just isn't possible to lump all separated families together. According to Professor Michael Lamb quoted in Fatherhood Institute Research Summary: Separated Families 70 % of children from separated families do not show any worse long-term outcomes than children whose parents have not separated and the five important factors that predict children’s outcomes after their parents’ separation are;

• The quality of their relationship with their mother 

• The quality (not necessarily the quantity) of their relationship with their father

• How much and how viciously the adults continue to fight 

• The financial support available to them 

• The child’s individual temperament

'Breakthrough Britain' is a misnomer as the research actually relates to family law in England & Wales, a fact which has been overlooked by the UK media (no surprises there, then!) It links rising levels of family breakdown to the increase in cohabitation and criticises the Government for considering offering couples legal rights outside of marriage. Here in Scotland although cohabitants do not have the same rights as married couples they already have some rights and as far as I'm aware it has not affected the trend for cohabiting, marrying or divorcing. The measures do provide some protection and financial support which at least gives children life chances.


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