Saturday, May 05, 2012

Changing society's attitude to marriage

Sir Paul Coleridge, a senior judge in the Family Division of the High Court, is a remarkable man. Appalled at the number of divorces and the effect family breakdown was having on children, he began some years ago to speak out in support of marriage.

Now, he says, it's no longer time to speak only, but time to act. This week he launched the Marriage Foundation, an independent charity whose aim is to champion marriage as the "gold standard of relationships," and by so doing to change attitudes towards marriage and divorce from the top to bottom of society.

Sir Paul, who once famously said that a divorce was easier to obtain than a driving licence, describes family breakdown as "one of the most destructive scourges of our time," and the impact family breakdown is having on society as "out of control."

"There are an estimated 3.8 million children currently caught up in the family justice system," he says. "I personally think that's a complete scandal."

The foundation's website says if you look at the facts and figures, the case for marriage becomes overwhelming. Its advice to married couples having problems will be where possible to "mend it, don't end it."

It is estimated, Sir Paul says, that the financial cost to the nation of family breakdown "exceeds £44 billion a year: greater than the entire defence budget."

When he was married in 1973, "we took the element of public commitment via our wedding vows seriously. Standing up in front of your family and friends to publicly commit to another person gives marriage a psychological stability or glue lacking in other relationships. . .

"The evidence I find overwhelming is that married relationships are more stable and the children of such relationships fare better. For example, a baby born to cohabiting parents is more than 10 times more likely to see its parents separate than one born to married parents."

It's good to see someone who, seeing a need, does something about it.