State `has a duty to marriage'

FAMILY LAW
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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT has a duty to give strong support to marriage and family life because of the "incalculable" cost of divorce to society, the Lord Chancellor said yesterday.

Lord Irvine of Lairg argued that divorces not only cost the taxpayer pounds 61m in legal aid payments last year but they also caused lost jobs due to personal distress and family disruption put pressure on health and education services.

Speaking at the diamond jubilee conference of marriage counsellors Relate, Lord Irvine made it clear family law must allow people to end marriages that had irretrievably broken down. But he added: "The Government and the whole community should work together in partnership to support the family and build a stronger society."

The Lord Chancellor spelt out his goals for family law - children's welfare, greater clarity of processes and results, less cost to couples and the taxpayer and less scope for acrimony.

"When marriage hit trouble, people should be clear and certain about their rights and obligations, he explained. "People whose relationship has begun to fall apart need to know what steps they can take to save their marriage, if that is possible, and to end their marriage if it is not."

He said the Government was fully committed to implementing part 2 of the 1996 Family Law Act, which requires couples to attend an information meeting before they filed for divorce.

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