Monday, 13 July 2009


It was with a sense of déjà vu that I read reports about the Conservative party’s new think tank proposals calling for a compulsory three month period for reflection before a separating couple can begin divorce proceedings. Moreover, before and during marriage a couple, whilst not being compelled, would instead be strongly encouraged to attend some kind of relationship classes.

Somewhere along the way there must be statistics on what percentage of separated couples commences divorce proceedings within 3 months. In my experience, it is only after much soul searching and often counselling that people proceed. The only immediate grounds for divorce in this country remain adultery or unreasonable behaviour and any person who commences proceedings quickly invariably does so in circumstances that they feel to be fully justified. Moreover, the first three months are generally spent exploring arrangements arising from the separation, including financially and in relation to the children.

Divorce is a piece of paper that allows someone to remarry and for most separating couples is therefore of little consequence to begin with. Instead it is used to confirm financial settlements or allow the courts to help broker deals or determine arrangements where agreement has proved impossible. What difference will a three month prohibition make?

The Conservative paper however seems to suggest that expectations of marriage are now too high and relationships will be saved if couples can somehow learn to modify their aspirations. I am a supporter of any steps that can help save marriages and prevent or reduce the trauma for the whole family that inevitably accompanies a split. For relationship counselling to do this, however, it must be widely available and totally voluntary. To suggest however that couples should learn to compromise in order to save their marriage sounds to me both patronising and insulting. We are talking about adults, many of whom can be bitterly hurt emotionally or physically by their partner; surely they have the right to decide their future for themselves? What kind of political party seeks to legislate to try to curtail lawful, personal aspirations?

Divorce is not easy but it is now an accepted phenomenon. I suggest that it is the level of acceptance that has increased the number of divorces and not a shift in a willingness to compromise. There have always been dreadfully unhappy marriages. The difference is that three generations ago, people remained trapped in them.


trisha said...

With the divorce rate so high, most people know someone who is divorced. In this day and age, we would think that the old stigmas of the past about divorce are gone

Anonymous said...

Divorce is really high in USA. In my country, Kuwait divorce is a problem but not as high as in USA

Bess said...

The waiting period of at least 6 months if there is a minor child, in my situation, is only an opportunity for the father to punish me through himm - since he won't move out of the home, and he's lost the ability to control me. My thanks to the court and law for allowing him to continue abusing me while I wait....