The Federal Government has long been aware that divorce can become a major source of transitory poverty. Logic dictates that two breadwinners under one roof usually make enough money to support themselves independently. When they break up, it is very common for at least one of them to fall onto Single Parent allowances and other Government assistance packages.
Federal Minister Kevin Andrews now wants more money spent on early intervention. While this announcement will probably receive support from a broad spectrum of stakeholders – churches, marriage counselling associations and divorce lawyers – the Ministers main problem will be combating changing cultural attitudes to marriage. For starters, less people marry today. The rise of the de facto relationship is likely to continue. Second, Generations X through Z don’t seem to see marriage as a lifetime contract. In a postmodern world where traditional christian values are disappearing, more and more people see relationships as necessarily seasonal.
It remains to be seen if the Federal Government has any hope of changing the tide here. Throwing money at pre-marriage counselling ($200 vouchers now available to engaged couples) may be a noble idea, but it could also be a total waste of money. After all, most marriages last at least 4 years. Who remembers one counselling session, 4 years later?
Scepticism aside however, there is no doubt Australia has a problem and it is now costing us billions. Regardless of the hurdles, early intervention may be our best hope so divorce experts like me look forward to seeing what new ideas the Abbott Government generates in this area.
In the meantime, rest uneasily in the knowledge that if you are married, there is a 50:50 chance you won’t be in future.