AT LAST! A JUDGE WHO FIGHTS FOR MARRIAGE; Senior Family Court Judge Campaigns to Break Britain's 'Divorce Addiction'; 'Marriage Is Not Something That Falls out of the Sky Ready-Made on to Beautiful People in White Linen Suits, It Involves Endless Hard Work and Love' Lord Justice Coleridge
Byline: James Chapman Political Editor
BRITONS have an addiction to divorce fuelled by a 'Hello! magazine' attitude to marriage, a top judge has warned.
Sir Paul Coleridge said family breakdown was 'one of the most destructive scourges of our time'.
Citing growing evidence of harm to a generation of children, he said youngsters whose parents separated saw their educational achievements and job prospects damaged.
In a highly unusual move for a serving judge, Sir Paul will tomorrow launch a campaign - backed by senior legal figures and Church leaders - to promote marriage.
There was 'incontrovertible' proof that married couples were more likely to stay together, he said.
Sir Paul, one of the most senior family court judges, voiced particular concern over what he called the 'Hello! magazine, Hollywood image' of marriage, saying: 'The more we have spent on weddings, the greater the rate of family breakdown.'
And he also warned that a trend for older couples to split once children leave home was having an 'extremely emotionally disturbing' impact on families.
Sir Paul's campaign is expected to be supported by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu and the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, while patrons of the campaign include former chief family law judge Baroness Butler-Sloss, family lawyer and academic Baroness Deech and Baroness Shackleton, the divorce lawyer who acted for Prince Charles and Sir Paul McCartney.
The judge warned that courts had 'streamlined' family cases to contend with the growing numbers, making it too easy for couples to split - suggesting they should be required to go through counselling and mediation.
'We don't traditionally comment on matters of policy, but there are very few people who have had as much experience of what is going on as the family judiciary,' he told the Daily Mail.
'We have watched it get worse and worse and worse. The time for sucking our teeth is over. Waiting for government or others to take action is merely an excuse for moaning and inactivity.'
According to official figures, there were 400,000 cases heard in the family courts in 2010 and 120,000 divorces, up 5 per cent on the previous year.
There were 241,000 marriages in 2010, a near 100-year low. Some 22 per cent of marriages in 1970 had ended in divorce by the 15th wedding anniversary, whereas 33 per cent of marriages now end in the same period.
Cohabitation, meanwhile, rose from a million couples in 2001 to 2.9million in 2010 - and it is projected to rise to 3.7million by 2031.
Referring to the 'Hello! magazine' attitude, he said: 'Marriage is not something that falls out of the sky ready-made on to beautiful people in white linen suits.
'It involves endless hard work, compromises, forgiveness and love. However right the person is, they might not be right two years later. It doesn't matter how wonderful you appear to be to your partner at the beginning, you will begin to display faults that we all have.
'In order for a relationship to last, you have to hang in there and adjust and change and alter and understand. Long, stable marriages are carved out of the rock of human stubbornness and selfishness and difficulties.'
Sir Paul, 62, who has been married for nearly 40 years and has three children and three grandchildren, also warned of the rise in so-called 'silver splitters' - couples who separate late in life, often when their children leave home. In the past decade divorce among the over-50s has risen by 10 per cent.
'It is very sad that we now see such a huge number of people in their 50s, 60s and 70s getting divorced and carving up their estates and their lives,' he said.
'There has been a dramatic increase. …