Divorce reforms 'destructive'

The Government's divorce reform plans are condemned today by the Institute of Economic Affairs, the free-market think tank, as part of a "contemptible and unremitting onslaught on the family", writes Nicholas Timmins.

Patricia Morgan, a research fellow at the institute, said that the changes to the divorce law planned by Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the Lord Chancellor, will become "far more destructive of the stability of marriages".

"As the law now stands, it does not protect the vulnerable and curb the unscrupulous, but allies itself with spouses who want to break up marriages," she says in a pamphlet, Just a Piece of Paper?

It already "rewards selfishness and destructiveness as against altruistic commitment". This will be "even more obviously the case" if Lord Mackay's proposal to introduce "no fault" divorce finalised after a year during which couples have to participate in a conciliation process.

Far from protecting children from conflict, Ms Morgan says international studies show that conflict is often not a major cause of divorce and that many children are either unaware of it or able to tolerate it. But as access to children becomes a contested area for divorced patents, the children do suffer.

"The experience of most children whose parents divorce is of increased conflict over an extended period."

Conciliation will do little to help, she argues. "Divorce is a great destroyer that is eating the heart out of society as well as savaging children's lives. Its deprivations will not be reversed given ever so many mediators or conciliators."

8Just a Piece of Paper?; IEA, 2 Lord North Street, London SW1P 3LB; pounds 6.50.