We strongly believe in the importance of marriage, so when we heard that a panel is trying to find ways to make divorce less adversarial, we decided to speak up – because the focus should be on making marriages stronger.
Here’s a copy of the letter we sent to Straits Times.
We refer to the article Panel Moots Ways to Make Divorce Less Adversarial (The Straits Times, April 17, 2014). It is heartening that one of the key recommendations of the Family Justice Committee is to enhance social support services and integrate them with the family courts system.
However, more should and can be done to preserve marriages and help families thrive.
While we agree that children need to be protected from their parents’ acrimonious legal tussle in a divorce, we have to admit that the act of divorce itself already has negative effects on the innocent children involved. Literature and research show that not only are the repercussions of divorce on children broad and strong, marital problems tend to perpetuate down the family line, with longitudinal data revealing that grandchildren of divorced couples end up with less education, more turbulent marriages and more distant relationships with their parents. In protecting children from the impact of divorce, we need to place the emphasis on prevention and intervention of troubled marriages rather than on improving the efficiency of the divorce process.
Majority of the counseling cases we see at Focus on the Family are for marital issues. Thankfully, we have had the joy of helping some acrimonious marriages turn around. There is always hope, especially where there is a willingness to change and a commitment to work things through.
In a number of countries, less than 10% of marital breakdown occurs in high-conflict marriages, where one or both spouses are at risk due to some form of abuse (eg, alcohol, drug, sexual, physical, emotional, mental). This poses the question if the majority of divorces in Singapore are occurring in low-conflict marriages, where counseling and assistance could bring about positive change. If so, we should focus our efforts on offering solutions to help couples heal and reconcile, perhaps even making marriage counseling mandatory prior to starting divorce proceedings.
Time and again, we’ve witnessed the age-old truth that the best gift a parent can give their child is to love their spouse. Let’s continue to emphasize making marriage stronger, and not divorce easier!