Marriage is facing many challenges in current times. The government believes that the quality of the relationship between mothers and fathers is what truly matters for happy families, regardless of whether they are married or not. This viewpoint has caused dissent among church leaders who want the government to promote marriage as the best choice. The 30th anniversary of the Divorce Reform Act also occurs this month.
The Divorce Reform Act brought a significant change by recognizing that marriages can reach a point of "irretrievable breakdown," removing the blame from ending a marriage. However, Britain’s divorce rates are the highest in the European Union, with almost one in three marriages crumbling. Some blame the decline of the traditional family on the stigma of divorce having diminished due to the Act. The government is looking for solutions to these problems, which affect personal lives.
It’s vital to understand the past to appreciate the current scenario. The Church previously controlled marriage through its ecclesiastical courts until 300 years ago, making it challenging to divorce, except for Henry VIII. In 1857, the Matrimonial Causes Act allowed women to divorce on the same grounds of adultery as men for the first time. In 1937, the "matrimonial offenses" Act gave provisions for divorce on certain grounds. However, it still did not address marriages that failed without an offense, a problem faced during World War II.
In 1971, the Divorce Reform Act allowed people to leave loveless, unhappy marriages. It still outlines the basis for Britain’s divorce law, although variations exist in Scotland. The law has since become more straightforward, with the introduction of the "quickie divorce." Cohabiting, unmarried couples are increasingly having children these days, raising concerns about the effect of divorce on the child’s mental health and their relationship skills.
The government is mulling over imposing mandatory mediation before couples dissolve their marriage, suggesting that it is promoting good relationships of all kinds. Still, indications suggest that the government actively advocates marriage. It’s a part of the national curriculum and provides free advice in Married Life books to couples intending to marry. The effects of these measures remain unknown.
Fun facts: The average cost of a white wedding is £13,723. Four in ten marriages end in divorce; in London, it’s 50%. Over 22% of children live with only their mothers, a threefold increase from 1971. Four in ten divorce filings cite unreasonable behavior, and 30% are based on adultery. In 1997, there were 310,000 marriages in Britain, which was the lowest recorded figure in the century.
Curriculum links: PSHE (relationship and lifestyle, marriage and parenting, impact of divorce); Citizenship (rights and responsibilities, topical political, and moral issues); English En1 (reading and writing); En2 (historical context); En3 (writing). RE courses also cover marriage and divorce as a key topic.
The Guardian has several articles on the topic: www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,3954785,00.html, www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,3954944,00.html, www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,3978829,00.html, www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4036060,00.html, www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4038548,00.html.