A senior High Court judge is launching a foundation to defend marriage and reduce of the “scourge of society” of family breakdown.
Sir Paul Coleridge wants to halt the “appalling and costly impact of family breakdown” and said people are looking to “recycle” partners instead of trying to fix their marriages.
He said the prospect of 3.8m children in the family justice was a “complete scandal” and “almost every dysfunctual child is the product of a broken family”.
He plans to open a Marriage Foundation at a cost of £150,000 a year to lobby for family-friendly policies, hold seminars and commission research into strengthening marriage.
Today is traditionally the busiest day of the year for divorce petitions, with couples going to their solicitors as relationships are strained to breaking point during the Christmas break.
Sir Paul wishes to encourage people not to have children unless their relationship is stable, and if it is stable, to encourage them to get married.
“Marriage, as the best structure in which to raise children, needs to be affirmed, strengthened and supported. Recycle your rubbish by all means, but be very slow to recycle your partner,” he told The Times.
“We have to rid ourselves of this dream that we are going to find the partner who is perfect in every way: emotionally, physically, intellectually – it’s just a nonsense.
“People want to change horses mid-stream – it’s the disease of the modern age. Soon you find the new partner is as flawed as the last. It is like a hydra: you cut off one head and get rid of a boring partner but inherit 26 new problems, your new partner’s children, family and so on.”
Family breakdown is the “scourge of society”, he added. “It affects everyone, from the Royal Family downwards. In about 1950 you weren’t allowed in the royal enclosure at Ascot [if divorced]. That would now exclude half the Royal Family.”
“It is a myth that children, even older ones, don’t care. They care greatly and a break-up shocks the whole foundation of the family, it never recovers.”
“My message is mend it — don’t end it. Over 40 years of working in the family justice system, I have seen the fall-out of these broken relationships. There are an estimated 3.8 million children currently caught up in the family justice system. I personally think that’s a complete scandal.”
Sir Paul married aged 23 in 1973 and has three children and three grandchildren.
He added: “I desperately want to avoid a moral crusade. And this is not just a cosy club for people who are happily married and can say, ‘Look how well I have done’. It will, I hope, appeal to people of every class, creed and ethnic background — including those who are divorced.”
The organisation is backed by Baroness Butler-Sloss, the former President of the Family Division; Baroness Deech, a leading family academic and currently chairman of the Bar Standards Board; and Baroness Shackleton, a leading family lawyer whose divorce clients have included the Prince of Wales and Sir Paul McCartney.
“The profession has made its fortune from marital breakdown; it is now time to put something in,” he said.
The judge, who awarded a record £48m to Beverley Charman in her divorce against husband John said: “I get intensely frustrated: I see hundreds and thousands of people traipsing through the courts, and nothing is being done about the problems that sent them here,” he said.
However, Anastasia de Waal, director of family and education at think-tank Civitas, questioned the intervention by a leading judge. She said: “It is very important where you’ve got a judge who is making decisions about families that they are not clouded by a particular view but are looking at what is going to serve the family.”