Iain Duncan Smith: Britain's social fabric would be wrecked by quickie separations

Unduly easy divorce sends the message that marriage can be treated lightly
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The Independent Online

Family law has been shown directly to affect people's decisions about marriage – the most stable form of couple relationship. In particular, unduly easy divorce sends the message that marriage can be treated lightly, that it is not something to work at but is instead disposable. This attitude is disastrous for society: family breakdown profoundly impacts both adults and children, leading to poorer mental and physical health and poorer life outcomes.

The need for less acrimonious and more transparent proceedings in family law highlighted by lawyers in the recent survey is paramount, but no-fault divorce is not the solution. These would undermine marriage and the commitment it involves. It is also the case that in some marriage breakdowns there is fault, and it is right that this should be noted.

Importantly, attempts to introduce no-fault divorce would distract from the far more urgent reform needed in English family law. Divorce would be far less acrimonious – with more out-of-court settlements and lower costs – if the likely financial outcomes were clearer, if the need for the "significant involvement" of both parents was legally recognised, and if pre-issue information was available and alternative dispute resolution encouraged.

The appalling levels of social breakdown in Britain require reforms that will strengthen stable family life, not undermine it. Marriage, as the family form which leads to the best outcomes for adults and children, should be championed and supported. No-fault divorce would achieve the very opposite to that which is best for British society.

Iain Duncan Smith MP is chairman of the Centre for Social Justice thinktank

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