Perverse Marriage Incentives & Obstacles to Divorce
July 7, 2009 1 Comment
Apropos of Nick Clegg’s speech on families, as reported at the Coffeehouse, in which he says:
"David Cameron’s social policy is focused almost obsessively on marriage, cajoling people to conform to a single view of what a happy couple should look like.
The Conservatives want marriage incentives in the tax system.
And they may adopt Iain Duncan Smith’s proposals to put in place more legal roadblocks to divorce.
This is both bizarre and patronising.
Do they really imagine people will take the lifelong commitment of marriage – or the awful decision of divorce – because of £20 a week?"
I’ve been married. In retrospect, it was a mistake, because I also divorced over 4 years ago. That said, I don’t entirely regret it. Marriage transformed me, for which I’m grateful. Sadly, it transformed me from the altogether mercurial and dangerous man my wife-to-be loved, into a much more stable, thoughtful and intellectual character. Whom she didn’t and couldn’t love. It became mutual.
The only bitterness I have about the divorce all revolves around lawyers and the legal process. With a relatively short marriage producing no children and little in the way of wealth, it should have been simple. But lawyers would have been happy to consume the entire of the equity and savings we had between us.
I handled the divorce myself, thanks to the relevant Which? Guide & a one hour consultation with a top family lawyer. Madam’s lawyer, however, was a fucking lying & contriving bitch from hell.
In the end, although finances went 60:40 in her favour, the entire of the extra amount she got was spent on her legal fees. Fucking serves her right for not stopping the lawyer from racking up bills for being a cunt.
The other uncomfortable aspect is that since she beat me to the punch with the divorce petition, she got to make the complaints of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ (the usual default option on the form when there’s no 2 year separation or any infidelity). The list of my alleged misdemeanours on the petition was gut-wrenchingly untrue, insulting and damaging. Since the alternative was to fight the petition in court and then file my own, which would have cost a fortune and taken 6-12 months, I had to swallow it all, merely writing the words ‘while I do not wish to contest the petition, I do not admit the truth of any of the petitioner’s allegations’ in the appropriate box on the respondant’s form.
So there we are. That’s my credentials established for what I’m about to say:
Marriage serves only one single purpose, which is to create a stable and loving environment in which to raise children.
I wish I’d understood that before I got married, because I wasn’t at all sure I wanted children with my betrothed or anyone else. Especially having witnessed the way she ludicrously hectored the cats.
Anyway, given what I now suppose the purpose of marriage to be, I fully embrace Cameron’s plans to re-align tax incentives towards encouraging marriage. I’m not personally concerned about how they would apply to civil partnerships, but common fairness tells me that tax-breaks for married couples should also apply to civil partnerships.
What I cannot support at all however, is Duncan-Smith’s plans to throw up more legal obstacles to divorce.
While few enter into marriage lightly, even fewer divorce lightly. As I’ve already explained, the legal aspects of the process are the truly unpleasant parts, both in the petition and the ancillaries. To say nothing of the fees.
IDS wants to add to this burden as a deterrent? Is he fucking stupid or what?
For a start, in making the exit from marriage more difficult, he surely annuls Cameron’s tax incentives for people to get into marriage. For any forward thinker – and with the rise of Pre-Nups, don’t tell me there aren’t any – this is a given.
So, keep the tax incentives and ditch the IDS divorce hurdles, and we’ll call it all square, eh?
But there’s another problem: Well, legal obstacles = cost obstacles, and the tax-disincentives of divorce = cost obstacles.
The consequence, as always with implicitly regressive measures (the cash differences are absolute, not proportionate) is that the poorest will be impacted most by these cost obstacles. Divorce will be reduced only amongst the poorest and what’s the alternative to divorce? For most it would be to continue as a battered wife, or a cuckolded husband – which is no life for anyone, and since it impacts the poor hardest, I don’t think Dave’s going to be appreciated when anyone bothers to analyse the consequences of his apparently virtuous policies.
Thinking about it again, I’m sure the main problem is the way the benefits and tax credits systems discriminate against marriage. So scrap benefits and tax credits. Leave the rest alone, eh?