Sunday, October 25, 2020
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Marriage has turned from a contract into a trap for men

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THE ‘no-fault divorce’ Act, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, was slipped quietly through Royal Assent on June 25. 

In practice we have had no-fault divorce for a long time, though this Act does indeed consolidate it. However, the even more substantive purpose of the Act is to make divorce unilateral.

This is the key part of the Act which makes both no-fault and unilateral action clear:

(1) Subject to section 3, either or both parties to a marriage may apply to the court for an order (a ‘divorce order’) which dissolves the marriage on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

(2) The court dealing with an application under subsection (1) must – (a) take the statement to be conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and (b) make a divorce order.’

Admirably clear. The word ‘either’ in (1) means that just one of the couple may apply for the divorce, simply making a statement of irretrievable breakdown. Para (3) states that the court must take that statement as conclusive evidence (i.e., no-fault, no reason, no evidence) and then must make a divorce order.

The initial order is provisional. There is a cooling-off period within the Act which, in most circumstances, will mean that a divorce is final after 26 weeks from initial application. A confirmation that the applicant wishes to proceed is required 20 weeks after initial application. The unilateral nature of the new divorce provision is reiterated at this point: ‘in the case of an application that is to proceed as an application by one party to the marriage only, that party has confirmed to the court that they wish the application to continue’.

The best spin one can put on this is that marriage is now pointless.

The point of a contract is to tie two parties into an agreement from which neither may withdraw unilaterally. This is the case whether one considers legal contracts or contracts which are ‘policed’ by social disapprobation. Marriage, in this legal form, is no longer a contract.

The purpose of marriage was to tie fathers into an obligation to provide for their children. The ‘deal’ of the traditional marriage arrangement was that, in return, men acquired social status and respect and achieved security in their position as fathers with a close involvement in the lives of the children they were supporting.

The ‘deal’ that is now on the table is a preposterous joke. It is a contrivance for a mother to continue to acquire the benefits of marriage whilst the father is given nothing: no respect, no status and no security in his fatherhood.

Whilst the best interpretation is that marriage is now pointless, the more pernicious scenario is:

·         A man gets married and has children;

·         He earns more than his wife, supporting the family;

·         The wife unilaterally applies for divorce. The husband need not have done anything wrong, and no claim that he has need be made;

·         He is obliged to leave his home, his involvement in his children’s lives is severely impaired and perhaps terminated, and he has to pay maintenance despite no longer enjoying any of the benefits of family life.

(Yes, I know not all marriages end up like that. But a huge proportion do, and a man has no means of judging beforehand whether, a few years down the road, this will be his fate. The new divorce Act can only make it more likely.)

Add to this the money siphon that is the taxation and benefit system (and public sector employment) and what we now have is institutionalised exploitation. The truly nasty part of this contrivance is that the reality of it is kept from young men until they have gone through the above sequence of events and become enslaved.

It is a moral obligation to continue the attempt to correct this broken system, to restore balance and fairness, through argument and reason. But those who place all their faith in such docile responses have failed to learn the lessons of the last 50 years.

We are expending a great deal of effort on the back end of this nasty process – the ejected fathers, who are the wounded in this conflict. We have foolishly been trying to build an army out of the already wounded. The army must be built out of the still-whole: young men.

The only card that men have to play is to withdraw cooperation. One aspect of this is a ‘marriage strike’. The mantra for young men should become:

·         No marriage

·         No cohabitation

·         No babies

Let the old belligerents screech about young men ‘lacking commitment’ until they are blue in the face. An effective withdrawal will be terminated ultimately by young women when they are brought to realise what they have done. Deeds, not words – ha!

In case there is any misunderstanding, let me clarify. I am in favour of marriage. I am married myself. My relationship with my wife started 45 years ago when the world was a different place. But what is on the table now is not marriage but a trap in the name of marriage. People who go on strike want to work, but striking is the workers’ only weapon.

The system has created a process for extracting resources from men without giving anything back in return. Reject it.

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William Collins
William Collins is a married semi-retired engineer and physicist with two adult sons who blogs on men's issues at http://empathygap.uk/,/a>. He is the author of The Empathy Gap: Male Disadvantages and the Mechanisms of Their Neglect.

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