Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A Ludicrous and Cruel Proposal

Yesterday, the Telegraph published an article saying that the coalition government are to announce plans to charge couples with children a fee to sort out their child maintenance arrangements in the event of a split. They would be "levelled at the end of a process of mediation when the state stepped in to "police" maintenance payments and child access arrangements", in an effort to "act as a deterrent and help convince parents that splitting up should be an option of last resort when all other avenues had been taken".

According to Maria Miller, the junior minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, ""Marriage provides a sort of stable framework for our lives and, with the evidence right in front of us, it is madness not to support marriage".

I find this proposal both abhorrent and repulsive, for several reasons.

Firstly, I would like to explain my personal opinion on marriage. Call me a cynic, but I believe that marriage is an archaic instituion, and I don't believe that anyone can truly state that they will be happy with the same person for the rest of their lives. To those it works out for, great - but I don't believe this is true for the majority of people. This does not mean that I actively oppose marriage or promote divorce, but I believe that people shouldn't be castigated or penalised just because a relationship didn't work out. My parents married when I was five, and my sister three, because of the previous Tory government's tax breaks for married couples (no, really), and divorced when I was 11. I was never tremendously sad about this, as my parents are both wonderful people, but not suited to be in a relationship with each other. They were both clearly happier without each other than together, and this improved our home environment tremendously - something which I feel would be true for many other children of divorce.

One of the 'justifications' for this repugnant charge put forward by Mrs Miller is that "[m]ore than nine out of ten 15-year-olds want to get married at some point in their lives. The Conservative Party unashamedly supports families, unashamedly supports marriage and this is what people aspire to and the Conservative Party have always been the party of aspiration". I'm going to ignore the part about the Tory Party being one of aspiration while unabashedly reducing opportunities for all, it's too easy. To use the fact that nine out of ten 15-year-olds say that they want to get married at some point as a justification for charging parents to split up is ludicrous - nine out of ten 15-year-olds saying that they want to get married at some point is not the same thing as nine out of ten 15-year-olds believe that marriage is forever and would never consider divorce.

Another point to consider is that "[t]he proposals are likely to be popular among Conservative right wingers who want David Cameron to make coalition policies much more specifically pro-family". These are exactly the kind of hypocritical idiots who abhor the so-called 'Nanny State'. Now, if trying to convince people to stay in loveless marriages because you think it's 'proper' isn't an example of the Nanny State, I don't know what is. How utterly galling of the government to put themselves in charge of being responsible for convincing couples to stay together.

The implication of this policy, and overt statement by the 'coalition source', that people divorce on a whim, and not as a last resort is as absolutely ridiculous as it is patronising. The agony couples go through before deciding to divorce is immense, and it is shameful for the government to believe otherwise.

Finally, my immediate thought upon reading this proposal was with victims of abusive relationships. To force abusee's who have escaped with their children to have to pay in order to receive money from their ex-partner is nothing less than sickening, and yet another example of the government failing to side with the most vulnerable in society.

I would like to conclude this by quoting a friend of mine, who, upon hearing of the proposals, said: "Something so unfair and so cruel can only have been the product of a late night drunken bet - 'Let's see what else we can get away with under the pretence of reducing the debt - it's OK, Clegg will get the blame anyway'". I'm inclined to agree.


  1. I thought the government already charged for dealing with maintenance payments.

  2. Really good piece of writing. Family is important. No doubt. Most of us divorcees have worked very hard to make sure our children understand that life can, and will, be better with two parents who care about them, if separately. Money is not and should never be an issue. Idiot governments in a quandary deflect from the real issues with this crap.

  3. Let's face it, the priviledged classes can stay married without having to spend time with their husband/wife. When you have the luxury of a number of homes and offshore funds it's fairly easy to stay out of the way of a spouse you no longer love or no longer loves you.
    However, the thing that strikes me even more about this proposal is that it is made by a government that has more public school boys than ever, in other words, who come from families that couldn't wait to get rid of their kids (and who ironically probably had a Nanny until said offspring was shunted off).
    The other thing that strikes me is if the opinion of 15 year olds is so important to our government, why not base education policies on their views, and drugs policy, and maybe ask them what they think about bankers getting a £2m bonus when they are probably going to be without any prospect of being able to afford to leave home, get an education, get married and have a family for at least the next decade or two?

  4. I've worked in a school with lots of kids with parents who are divorced. A friend of mine is a solicitor in family law. Most of the parents who give a damn about their children have clearly separated as a last resort.

    So my economic response is this "A small charge on maintenance at the end of separation and divorce proceedings will do very little to discourage family splits compared to the already considerable financial, emotional and logistical difficulties. I anticipate that this will not reduce the number of divorces, and only delay the most marginal of cases until the situation becomes intolerable."

    My personal response is the same, but with the words "you pillock." added to the end.

  5. Great post (and blog),

    I'm not from England, but from what I've about his stance on various issues he seems very backward in his thinking and policy.

    I also find it hard to believe the a Government known as the Conservatives paint themselves as being aspirational.


  6. I love the fact that one of the justifications for this ludicrous proposal is that 9/10 fifteen year old kids want to get married. I'd imagine 9/10 fifteen year old kids also want to get a decent education and a job. Maybe they should put as much effort into helping them achieve that rather than destroying the chances of working class kids going to University and bringing out pointless Tory bullshit like this.

  7. 'police' now thats an appropriate word *sigh*

  8. Thank you for this lucid, patiently argued, piece.I wish I had your facility for cool, sharp, analysis.

    This latest dose of vindictive Tory venom falls under the category 'Discipline and Punish'.If you have the 'wrong' aspirations, that is, any outside the 'Daily Mail Criteria', you 'deserve' all the violence, abuse, and general misery coming to you......

  9. They don't call it the "Maily Torygraph" for nuffink!