The Times has launched a campaign to overhaul the divorce laws — which it believes are 50 years out of date — and has enlisted various judges and eminences to advance this cause.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.