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UK family judge launches campaign against ‘scourge’ of divorce

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LONDON, May 18, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A high court justice has launched a campaign against the “scourge” of divorce that he says is tearing apart British society. Sir Paul Coleridge, who sits in the Family Division, has said that marriage is the “gold standard for relationships” and that its erosion through easy divorce is “one of the most destructive scourges of our time,” particularly for children.

Sir Paul said he wanted the campaign to be “the start of a national movement with the aim of changing attitudes across the board from the very top to the bottom of society, and thus improve the lives of us all, especially children.”

He has launched an organization called the Marriage Foundation with the aim of lobbying for government policies that support married families and advocating for marriage by “strengthening the institution for the benefit of children, adults and society as a whole.”

Sir Paul said that 3.8 million children were caught up in the family justice system each year, and marriage rates have more than halved in the past 40 years with the number of single-parent households, usually headed by the mother, increasing by an average of 26,000 per year from the early 1980s to 2010. Between 2010 and 2011, divorces in England and Wales rose 5640, from 113,949 to 119,589. This represents a sudden jump after several years of decline with more couples cohabitating and avoiding both marriage and divorce.

Sir Paul told the Daily Mail, “There are very few people who have had as much experience of what is going on as the family judiciary.

“We have watched it get worse and worse and worse. The time for sucking our teeth is over. Waiting for government or others to take action is merely an excuse for moaning and inactivity.”

Others involved in the campaign include the country’s Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks; Baroness Butler-Sloss, the former president of the Family Division; Baroness Deech, chairman of the Bar Standards Board; and Baroness Shackleton, a prominent divorce lawyer.

Although some have criticised the judge for becoming involved in politics, some lawyers are saying the work is coming just in time as studies begin to show more clearly the harms done to children by the family court system.

A tenth of children who had been through the system said they felt suicidal, feeling “isolated” and “used” while some parents admit using children as “bargaining tools” in divorce proceedings, according to a poll of 4,000 parents and children. Commissioned by the law firm Mishcon de Reya, the study said a third of children from broken families were tempted to turn to drinking or drugs and 10 per cent eventually become involved in crime. One quarter said they had been asked to lie to one parent by the other and 15 per cent said they had even been called on to “spy” for their mother or father.

Sandra Davis, head of family law at Mishcon de Reya said, “The adversarial nature of the system invites people to come and use the courts system as a punch up and the children get used as pawns.

“It polarises parents and it puts children in the middle of the antagonism. Some fathers back off because it is too painful to carry on litigating, they give up.”

Tim Loughton, the Tory Shadow children’s minister, told the Daily Telegraph, “This is alarming evidence of the very detrimental impact it is having on the welfare of the children themselves.

“Clearly, the court system is failing and is positively encouraging conflict - and continuing conflict.”

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