“Judges do not traditionally speak out about the social issues that manifest themselves in their courts,” wrote Lesley Garner, Telegraph journalist and former advice columnist. So it’s somewhat surprising that Sir Paul Coleridge, a senior family court judge in the UK founded the Marriage Foundation, a campaign that promotes, among other things, mediation prior to and during divorce.
Like the United States, the United Kingdom has a high divorce rate. The current rate is the same as it was in 1972, only a year after the “Divorce Reform Act” was enacted in an effort to reduce it. Divorce seems to be an inevitable possibility in today’s Western society, especially during economic downturns. And while the Marriage Foundation means to change that, it hasn’t even considered the millions of partners and families who cohabitate.
Cohabitation isn’t necessarily a way to avoid marriage, but a way to live with a partner without declaring it publicly. Garner supposes that it’s possible a private agreement is less binding, but that a cohabitation agreement designed by a mediator can result in a commitment similar to marriage.
But for those of us who are married, the Marriage Foundation could provide some relief from the “wreckage of grievance, shattered illusions, betrayal and heartbreak in one incoherent, insurmountable heap” that comes with divorce. Garner’s description of divorce partially aims to belittle the Foundation’s goals (and assumes they probably aren’t within reach), but it also reminds us what avoid and what do pursue: expensive, compulsory marriage and a good mediator, respectively.