Divorces in Britain

PD*27572655The western world is crippling with the collapse of family values and systems for a very long time. As a belated measure the Government of Britain has taken some steps to check alarming divorce rates. Yes it should implement reapproachment period of three to six months between couples in stress. This can cool off their short tempers and haste decision to go for divorces.

The Times of India reports 14 July 2009)

If Britain’s Conservatives have their way, estranged husbands and wives would have to think twice literally before saying goodbye. A Tory-backed

Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think tank report says couples wanting to separate should undergo a three-month “cooling off” period before kickstarting divorce proceedings. According to ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, most people today forget that compromise is the secret of conjugal bliss. Ergo, many marriages could be saved if only warring spouses were made by law to reflect upon the decision to call it quits.

Social concern over marital discord is understandable, especially when the decisions of adults affect children. There may also be issues about property or alimony that heighten the bitterness of parting. However, the problem with the Tories’ contention is the moral judgement that it appears to pass on divorce-seekers. Couples may have genuine irreconcilable differences. A compulsory ‘cool off’ delay may only prolong their pain of cohabitation. Conversely, if estranged spouses want to kiss and make up, they’ll do so anyway. Reconciliation can’t be brought about by government fiat. Surely, it’s best left to couples to decide whether they want to “cool off” or approach the courts.

The report declares: “Marriage is of paramount importance to individuals, children and our nation.” Such a statement can have authoritarian implications. It seems to view the stable, conformist family “holy matrimony” as the microcosmic reflection of the “nation”, which history has shown can often be dangerously conflated with a self-perpetuating political regime.
In any democracy, it’s individuals who are “paramount”, and all institutions built on the foundation of their free choices. Modern marriage is no exception, more so since it involves human relationships that are dynamic in nature. If couples part by mutual consent, it’s their affair. If divorce is not mutually willed or involves child custody and property disputes, the courts can step in. Politicians, surely, should have no business telling private citizens how to go about taking important personal decisions.

The proposal to implement a mandatory ‘cool off’ period of three months before divorce proceedings can begin is a perfectly good idea. It’s based on

the valid insight that people may rush into decisions in the heat of anger. If couples are just given enough time to re-examine their situations, they may reconsider divorce as an option.

Divorce in England and Wales is currently granted on the basis of the irretrievable breakdown of marriage, on one of five grounds adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation with consent, or five years’ separation without consent. Several of these grounds also apply to divorce in India. Nowadays we hear about people getting divorced for the most ridiculous of reasons. They may have been able to work out the issues between them had they been given enough time to understand the enormity of their actions.

In recent times, divorce rates across the world have increased alarmingly, thus threatening the family unit on which human civilisation is predicated. Children, usually innocent bystanders in case of fights between couples, may suffer the most. It is, therefore, quite acceptable for the state to intervene and create laws that would discourage people from divorcing. Divorce should be the last option for a couple, something they consider in the worst-case scenario. It shouldn’t be an easy way out when things get a little tough. Marriage is hard work and requires compromise from both parties. But a couple is unlikely to work on their relationship if they know that they can get a quick and easy divorce at the first sign of trouble.

This proposed three-month period would offer feuding couples a chance to take time off. They could re-evaluate their decision and consider the impact it would have on their children, if any. It is important that the state give every encouragement to the traditional family unit that has proven to be the building block of society. If we allow it to fall by the wayside for the sake of convenience, we will be looking at a vastly different future than the one envisaged for later generations.

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