Sir Paul Coleridge, a High Court Judge since 2000 and a family specialist barrister before that, has launched a foundation to promote marriage. He is backed by other members of the Judiciary and some religious institutions. Their aim as quoted in The Times is “strengthening the institution at the heart of personal relationships and the raising of children in love, stability and security”
So do we as family lawyers have a duty to promote marriage to our clients? We certainly have to ensure that our clients understand the consequences of their actions and the magnitude of their decision. However, we are not relationship counsellors and nor are we trained in this discipline. It is my view that if a client needs such assistance we should make appropriate referrals to help them make the right decision for them.
While I cannot disagree with some of what Sir Paul Coleridge has to say, I am concerned that we do not stigmatize divorce. I don’t think it is helpful that people live together in misery. Children must always be the first consideration for all of us. After all, they are the innocent parties but in some cases are children not better to be removed from households where conflict and distress is an everyday occurrence? There has to be a line of argument that says that where separation is properly managed possibly with the assistance of mediation that this has to be better for children.
I think we all know that relationships and marriage have to be worked at but many people who have made that difficult step of making the first appointment with their solicitor have considered all their options and have made what is for most a very difficult decision. They want their family specialist to help them navigate their way through the legal framework.
Clients are far more commercially savvy and many are involved in social media and have researched their situation before they even come to their solicitor. We are in a world of competition with alternative business structures and fixed fees. Clients want to keep their fees to a minimum. Surely our duty is to listen to our clients and to provide the service that they require in the most cost efficient and least stressful way that we can.
Just as an afterthought I wonder what the view of the Marriage Foundation is on same sex marriage?