December 22, 2011

Keep it in the family

Party politics apart, the spat between prime minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg on the subject of family values raises some interesting points. A balanced view may well lie somewhere in the middle of the front bench rhetoric.

Opposing the idea of tax breaks for married couples, the deputy mocked his leader’s idealistic view of the traditional 1950s family – with suit-wearing, breadwinner dad and aproned, homemaker mum. Mr Clegg preferred a more progressive approach, open to change and not elevating married couples to a moral pedestal.

So, was there very much wrong with the prime minister’s 1950s model? It could certainly be argued that it had a greater air of permanence and stability about it than today’s culture of instant celebrity status and material trappings. Divorce was far from common back then and, to some extent, carried a social stigma. It could also be said that social and financial pressures ensured couples stayed together regardless of how miserable they were.

Of course this was also prior to the Divorce Reform Act 1969, which came into force in 1971 despite strong opposition from the Religious Leaders. The Act opened the floodgates to a completely new world where divorce petitions no longer had to be heard in the High Court and separation was, at least legally, much easier to achieve.

Race forward 40 years and divorce rates have soared. On the other hand we are living longer, healthier lives and some argue that the notion of staying with one partner for life is less valid than it once was. There’s no doubt that the passing of decades has seen a dramatic change but perhaps neither era has the perfect answer.

At Jones Myers we strive to remain non-judgmental. There is much to commend preservation of the family unit, but not at the expense of all else – especially the happiness and stability of any children involved. The number of cohabiting couples has increased to around 2.3 million and regular readers will know of our campaign for new legislation to give cohabiting couples similar protection to married couples in the event of a split.

Regardless of marital status, our aim is to ensure that couples who genuinely cannot see a future for their relationship are given every opportunity to resolve their problems and difficulties in as fair and amicable a manner as possible, for the good of all involved. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed.

We’d like to wish everyone a happy time this Christmas, with family or friends, wherever you are.