Rod Liddle: However you look at it, divorce is a disaster

The Times has launched a campaign to overhaul the divorce laws — which it believes are 50 years out of date — and has enlisted various judges and eminences to advance this cause. When I first read the headline I was delighted, because with the possible exception of credit cards I can think of no post-war social development that has brought more misery to more people than the ease with which divorces are handed out these days — and, in both cases, especially to the poorest of people. But when I read on I was astonished to see that the Times wants to make it easier for people to get divorced, whereas I had assumed it wished to make it substantially more difficult. At the moment, 42 per cent of marriages end in divorce: perhaps the Times will not be content until that number is 100 per cent and thinks that the decree nisi should arrive as soon as possible, preferably the moment the bride and groom return from their honeymoon in the Maldives and before the wedding presents have been unwrapped.

…I stood outside the Job Centre in Middlesbrough a few years back, interviewing everyone who came out, or at least all those who would speak to me. The proportion of people whose parents were separated or divorced was 100 per cent. The vast majority had gone on to suffer broken marriages themselves or had sired offspring with partners and then moved on. This stuff had not made them feel free and happy. It had effectively wrecked their lives, financially and emotionally. They were hamstrung by debt and the meagre payments they had to pay to estranged spouses. The women were unable to find work because they were required to look after their kids. The men couldn’t travel for work because they still wanted to see their children. The relationships they formed were all transient and ephemeral, devoid of commitment, devoid of real love, you might say. That’s what it was like for the adults.

For the children? Catastrophic.

  • deplorabledave

    I can attest to that.

    • ECM

      Ditto x infinity.

  • Exile1981

    Divorce laws assume the man is at fault for all divirces.

    I know of several friends / associates were the wife ran away to shack up with some guy in a foreign country they met on the internet.

    Then wife comes back to Canada but because she quit her job to run away the courts award her alimony. If you have no job becauae you quit it… that shouldn’t allow you to suck your spouse like a leech.

    Another friend divorced his common law wife after 3 years together…. because she was cheating.
    Courts awarded her child support for 4 kids all from previous husbands. None were his but he lived in his truck for 6 years because the child support was so high.

    • I realize that divorce and child support laws in the West are unfair on men. However, there have been many examples of men ditching their wives when they met someone younger and more exciting and less into tedious things like raising children. That’s cruel and immoral too. There’s more than one reason divorce has been heavily stigmatized in Western culture* right up until, oh, the boomer generation. The bigger issue here is the selfishness of people who pretend it’s okay to tear apart their children’s families simply because they’re bored or they want to get laid more.

      *Divorce does not seem to be stigmatized in the Muslim world, aside, of course, inevitably, from the general assumption that a woman who initiates a divorce is obviously a whore. I think this is because marriage in the Islamic as opposed to in the Christian tradition is seen as a business arrangement rather than a sacrament.

      • WalterBannon

        I realize that divorce and child support laws in the West are unfair on men. However, {long straw man argument for supporting continued misandry by family courts follows}.

        I assume you do not believe in equal rights or justice then?

        • What the fuck are you talking about? Seriously?

          I said that I believe that current family court laws and practices in Western society are unfair on men. Is there something unclear about the way I said it? Is there some reason you believe I’m endorsing something I just denounced?

          Walter, the problem is bigger than the fact that the law is unfairly biased towards women. Divorce has only been okey-dokey, no big deal, the-kids-will-thank-you etc. for a few decades. Within living memory. Was divorce normalized simply by a bunch of greedy women? If it was for men, would nobody ever get divorced? Is that the whole story? It’s rather pathetic that you take a huge issue like this and insist that it can’t be about anything other than your pet peeve.

          By the way, you don’t know what a straw man argument is. You should look it up.

          • WalterBannon

            1. you had opened with an “I know its unfair but…” argument which is not taking a position that is arguing against the disparity but rather is being dismissive of it. Perhaps you were not aware that is what you were communicating.

            2. I note your next paragraph and suggest that perhaps calming down and restating your point here more clearly.

            3. Suggest you investigate straw man arguments further. The argument in question made by you on whether the current divorce laws were fair was being rebutted by you with an irrelevant point about male infidelity as an apparent justification for inequality in the law. Male and female infidelities are relatively equal causes for divorce, and in any case the cause for people seeking a divorce has nothing at all to do with whether a law has been written or administered in an unbiased fashion. Hence raising male infidelity as a justification for poorly administered laws is a straw man argument.

            Have a nice day now.

          • 1) “Perhaps you were not aware that is what you were communicating.” Perhaps you are not aware that I am not responsible for your eccentric misreadings.

            2) I’ll try to remain calm, Walter, to the best of my feminine abilities. Thanks for the suggestion. However, I literally can’t restate my point “more clearly”, which is possibly ironic, given that the point which I was making with no mean amount of clarity was that you were deliberately(?) misunderstanding something which I’d already been very clear about. It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?

            3) Okay, see, if I’d been making a straw man argument, I’d basically have to have been trying to suggest or imply that Exile1981 was asserting something which he wasn’t actually asserting. This is a thing that did not happen.

      • Alain

        I used to have a fellow who worked for me who had a habit of making very bad decisions when it came to women. He was divorced and being bled dry by his ex who also worked and earned as much as he did. Then the fellow moved in and lived common law with a divorced gal with three kids each from a different father. That arrangement did not work out, but she still managed through the courts to get child support from my employee while collecting it from each biological father of her kids. I know he was not making it up, since we had to garnishee his pay. He was working almost for nothing in the end. Of course he was responsible for his own stupidity when it came to women, but I was shocked by the discrimination and unfairness.

        • I’ve heard stories like that too. It’s appalling. But if divorce/child support/alimony laws were equalized overnight, so that men were no longer victimized, would that solve the problem? Or would children’ lives still be torn apart by a broken culture?

          • Alain

            No, the children will still be affected. Personally I think instead of making divorce easy (with the exception of a spouse being physically in danger and proven so) it should be made more difficult for both spouses when children are involved. No children, then no fault divorce if applied equally for the man and the woman would work. I suspect that the frequency of divorce is a sign of a failing, materialist culture where selfishness has been encouraged and promoted through the “me first and only”. That begins in the education system with the promotion of “self-esteem” and no one iloses or fails and is reinforced through the media and entertainment. I do not see that being turned around sadly without the complete collapse of Western culture as it is today.

      • Art Deco

        However, there are many examples of men ditching their wives when they
        meet someone younger and more exciting and less into tedious things like
        raising children.

        There are things which happen which are sufficiently infrequent that they are not proper guides for social policy. Women are the initiators in about 60% of all divorce suits and a higher share of divorce actions in circumstances where children are present. The median age of those filing for divorce is somewhere around age 33. The propensity to file suits declines sharply with age, but at a similar rate for men and for women. Filing a divorce suit at age 50 to your wife of 23 years is exceedingly atypical. People have with some odd exceptions made their peace with each other (and, when they have not, it’s still usually the wife who files).

        If you want to cut the divorce rate, begin with a rebuttable presumption that the filing party gets nothing beyond that share of the marital property derived from their foundational contribution and their income stream during the marriage (if that) and gets nothing but an occasional visit with the children. To get something better, we’re going to have to see the sheets from the emergency room visits, the bills from the liquor store, samples of his drug stashes, and pictures of paramours.

    • Alain

      One serious problem I see is that the courts still treat the woman as though it was the time when a woman was financially dependent either on her father or her husband. The same applies to custody rulings.

      • Watchman

        Women apparently have been working hard to prevent the assumption in court that a divorced woman can get a job and thus will not require alimony for the rest of her life.

  • BillyHW

    If a woman is receiving any form of financial support from her ex-husband, she has a moral obligation to offer him her sex.

    • Does that include child support payments?

      • WalterBannon

        the children should be in joint custody, unless otherwise agreed by both parties, and each should pay for their own costs while parenting

        If people don’t like the prospect of that the courts should deny the divorce decree..

    • Alain

      Were I the ex-husband, my ex would be the last person I’d want to have sex with, especially after having been taken to the cleaners.

      • WalterBannon

        agreed, but his point is more a matter of principle and equity

  • tom_billesley

    …. the Times wants to make it easier for people to get divorced,
    Talaq, talaq, talaq?

    • Watchman

      Looks like that will be the “Easy Divorce Plan” for the majority of British subjects anyway in the year 2100, regardless of what parliament does or does not do.

  • ECM

    The Times has been taken notes from their new, Islamic, overlords, I see.

  • trespasserswill

    The way to prioritise the interests of the children, is not to make divorce difficult, but to ban the remarriage of parents with offspring below the age of majority or completion of higher education. And strictly enforce the maintenance responsibilities of both parents to their existing children. That would clip the wings of the flighty parents who seek divorce after they “met someone else”. Because that third party would have a much reduced and long delayed expectation of marriage.
    This wouldn’t mend the relationships within a bad marriage, but it would seriously impair the “pull factor” of an adulterous romance.

  • DMB

    Marriage today is at a crisis with divorce reaching over 50%. The top three reasons couples divorce is 1) Financial 2) Infidelity 3) Abuse. Having said that the number one reason couples marry is out of love unlike in the east (especially in south east asia & middle east) where they most marriages are arranged and treated like a business (wanting to keep the money in the family) and love has very little or nothing to do with the marriage. I believe that love should be the initial factor for couples to get to together however once the couple begins to discuss mutual living arrangements, financial obligations including potential joint bank accounts and marriage is in the near future or living common law than its time to treat the relationship as a business agreement meaning a prenuptial agreement should be signed. Prenuptial agreements should be mandatory by law for all couples to sign before getting married to avoid the potential high legal costs of family court. When children are involved unless there is clear evidence of abuse by one of the parents joint custody should be the default legal position of the courts.

    • Alain

      Good points, but I find that granting common-law or what it used to be called “shacking up” the same legal status as legal marriage is a big part of the problem. It also started the destruction of traditional marriage and the traditional family. I also confess that when I was much younger and not nearly as smart as I thought I was, I thought my grandmother and parents were out-to-lunch when they tried explaining to me that lust was not love.

      • DMB

        Agreed but I would like to add that the government should get out of marriage business and only religious institutions i.e. churches, synagogues be allowed to conduct them. The government should only be involved in common-law relationships were the only obligation would be to enforce the legal obligations that are involved if the relationship would end through the use of prenuptial agreements & child custody arrangements. Marriage is still largely a religious sacrament something that the state should not force upon religious institutions such as gay marriage.

        • Alain

          If the government removes itself from the marriage business, then that must also include “common-law”. Only in cases where a civil union contract was made, should there be any state involvement. If people choose to live together without any legal contract, then the government/state should not be involved. Basically the state/government has no mandate to protect people from their own stupidity and bad choices be they women or men.

  • Tooth&Claw

    No one wins in a divorce, and the children pay the highest price of all.

    • Alain

      Thank you, but actually the only winners are the lawyers.

      • Tooth&Claw

        You can divorce without lawyers. Takes effort, but can be done.

  • Clausewitz

    Buddy of mine went through a devastating divorce. The only thing that kept him sane was this song.