Sir Paul Coleridge warns of the dangers of family conflict

Leading High Court judge Sir Paul Coleridge has made a speech calling for married couples to be taught about monogamy in an effort to stem the rising tide of family breakdowns.

In his speech, the family division judge warned of a ‘yawning public ignorance’ about the potentially harmful effects of family conflict upon children, even as babies. Sir Paul called for a fresh approach to tackling the problem of family breakdown, with a greater emphasis on helping couples avoid relationship problems from spiralling out of control.

Sir Paul Coleridge founded the Marriage Foundation in 2012 and is calling for couples who are in seemingly happy, stable relationships to be encouraged to use professional help to build an enduring marriage that will last.

Sir Paul made his speech whilst hosting the Marriage Foundation’s annual conference which was held in London on 6 December. The theme of conference was the promotion of ‘relationships education’ – sending couples on relationships courses to teach them ways of avoiding potential relationship pitfalls, rather than resorting to marriage guidance or counselling after the damage has been done.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary spoke at the conference and is in support of the Marriage Foundation’s proposals.

During his speech Sir Paul highlighted the high-profile divorce of Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson as an example of the pain of a family breakdown which he claimed would “chime with many who had been exposed to the rigours of the break-up mill.”

However Sir Paul also said that unless modern couples learn to respect boundaries, the UK is in danger of facing “social anarchy,” with children as the victims: “I encounter it, day in and day out, in the arena of the family courts – let it not be forgotten that fifty per cent of all children are not living with both parents by the time they are 15.

“There are millions of them and it is they who are the real victims and casualties.

“Their parents are too, of course, but the children are given no choice, are never consulted and only rarely considered before it and its effects are dumped into their young lives, slowly to release their legacy over the whole course of an upbringing and way beyond into their adult lives.”

He continued, saying: “We live in a time of mass family breakdown. We know of its destructive effects.

“In the old days society was held together by rigid taboos and stigmas which prevented parties from divorcing and stigmatised illegitimate children.

“These taboos were indiscriminate in their application and led to much inhuman behaviour and unhappiness.

“I am genuinely thankful they have evaporated and been consigned to the scrap-heap of history in favour of individual choice.

“However if we are to enjoy freedom to choose we must be helped to understand and make the right choices for ourselves and our children.

“Social anarchy and a society without boundaries is not the only the alternative to nasty taboos.

“If we are not to have restraint by taboo we must have personal restraint and self-imposed boundaries.”

However Sir Paul did admit that it’s likely that many couples would be reluctant to take part in marriage classes because of worries that is would involve embarrassing role play work or group discussions, adding: “It is instead about equipping people by giving them the tools to cope with and manage the eternally difficult subject of living with your partner in a monogamous long term relationship.”



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