Sir Paul Coleridge is something of a breath of fresh air. The senior High Court judge has again spoken out in defence of the family and about the importance of trying to keep marriages together. He is advocating a change from the “recycling attitude” to marriage, where people ditch their partners for a new one whenever they feel like it rather than trying to make it work, to help cut the numbers of children caught up in the family justice system.
He believes marriage is better than cohabiting but has previously suggested that getting a divorce is “easier than getting a driving licence”.
Now he is setting up the Marriage Foundation, with the aim of making it the “go to” place for information on marriage. It will commission research, hold seminars and conferences, produce publications and lobby for family friendly policies, all geared towards helping families stay together and, one assumes, changing attitudes to get away from the disposable relationship mindset. “My message is mend it – don’t end it,” he says.
His message is most timely. Much is being made about the first week in January being the busiest in the calendar for family lawyers. For some couples, Christmas with the family is the last straw and they rush to seek advice on divorce and separation once the tinsel is packed away. While I would not necessarily concur that it is specifically the first week, it is fair to say that January is when we get most emails, calls and visits to our website.
His comments also come on the back of figures published before Christmas that suggest divorce is on the rise again, fuelled perhaps in some way by growing numbers of over 60s separating, the so called grey divorces, as couples reassess their relationships once their children have flown the nest.
It is a brave move for a High Court judge like Sir Paul to be so vociferous and proactive on a single issue. He is to be applauded for it and I just hope it doesn’t give the impression that he continues to be anything other than impartial in all matters relating to family law.
It is said the Marriage Foundation will cost around £150,000 a year and I really hope it gets the backing from the industry it deserves. The more resources available to help couples in times of trouble – rather than simply leaving them to dispose of partners on a whim – the better, as far as I am concerned. Of course, there are already resources out there for people. Services like Relate can help couples through troubled times, while websites like our own can spell out how the process works and what the options are, giving people a realistic view of what will happen and perhaps make them think through all the consequences clearly before making any life-changing move.
Good luck Sir Paul. We’re with you.