Tuesday, December 06, 2005

UK judge speaks up on government's neglect of marriage

Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Britain’s former president of the family division of UK’s High Court, recently criticized the British government for neglecting marriage, this in spite of the recent granting of civil unions to same-sex couples.

Butler-Sloss said that “It is, however, a sad fact that a Government which has published excellent proposals on helping parents and children after breakdown of relationships has done nothing practical to support married couples."

She was referring to the fact that there are no tax breaks given to married couples: "There is now no financial incentive to marry or remain married and a financial incentive to cohabit and not to marry. This outcome, which contributes to the downgrading of the status of marriage, is particularly sad, since the statistics show that marriage remains the most stable of all relationships between men and women."

The provisions of the UK's new Civil Parntership Act are not extended to heterosexual couples, encouraging them to marry. However, Butler-Sloss doubts this would have a positive result.

"There are many cohabiting couples who have no idea of the legal pitfalls if they separate acrimoniously or die without making proper provision for the other partner....There is a widespread myth that a stable relationship is a common law marriage. It is not."

If one looks at the long-term trend of marriage rates in the UK since 1972, statistics show that there is a downward slide.

According to the article from the Telegraph, Butler-Sloss, who has 3 children and has been married for 47 years, has had more judicial experience of family cases than any judge is likely to acquire ever again.

She further said that if children of divorced parents or parents with acrimonious relationships are not helped, we will be "condemning many children to an inadequate future and our successors to the consequences of our failures.”

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