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Family Law

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12 APR 2011

Penny Booth: What next, I wonder...

Penny BoothI was interested in the new stock soon to be available in WH Smiths which I heard about last week - do-it-yourself divorces in all but name - and not at all sure whether to be delighted at the ease or horrified at the empty-headed slickness of it all.

The former would be the response were I to be seduced into thinking that this meant that we have now got round to being sensible about divorce and are prepared to sit round the kitchen table talking calmly about the future and alongside what to put on the shopping list (low-fat cheese, fresh fruit, anti-cholesterol spread and, oh, yes, a do-it-yourself divorce pack so that we can finish that job once we've done the bathroom ready to sell the house) we can consider our next steps. The latter reaction is ‘horrid fascination', which is my response to our acceptance of the inevitable in this instance - that we can deal with divorce through a purchased pack that seduces the buyer into thinking it is all going to be as easy as getting the debit card out.                            

At least going to a solicitor to get the legal advice has some good sense in it, but now we seem to have lost the preparation of the essential formality of the ending of a relationship that the participants must, as some earlier point, have thought enough of to engage in with an element of solemnity due to the occasion and the commitment. In that sense, I am not talking about religion - not at all - but there are some formalities worth spending time on whether you have any religious belief or not and binding folk together to form their own family branch, and the ending of that solemn act, must surely be one of them?                       

What next? Well, I was disappointed (but not entirely surprised) to read of a tale of greed and duplicity, as well as the frank ‘commodification' of babies and surrogacy in the tabloids today. Yes, ok, I admit I read them, but you should try comparing stories in the broadsheets-that-aren't- anymore, and in the tabloids that are even-worse-that-you-remember-them because they are quite an eye-opener - and full of entertainment if you are cynical like me! Anyway, enough of my reading suggestions...

What next is the aspiring (not quite there, you see) commissioning couple who now find that they must pay the surrogate mother of the child born of her egg and commissioning male's sperm (that the aspiring commissioning couple thought they had engaged to carry a child for them) some child maintenance every month because the commissioning father is the natural father of the child and now the (surrogate) mother wants to keep the baby. For goodness' sake - you cannot (should not) buy babies!

The Child Support Agency has, according to the report, ordered large payments from the father to the mother (the disappointed aspiring commissioning couple are wealthy) and she has decided not to hand the child over. I was looking for something attractive in all this, but have spent quite enough time looking... maybe it was originally generous to think of such an agreement and handing a child over to a childless couple, maybe the couple giving up the fight to save a battle which might be damaging for the child. Whatever, I would suggest that creating a child in these circumstances is fraught with problems and frankly, I do not see why the rest of us should pay or support it. At all. I understand the inevitable sadness in not being able to have your own ‘natural' child, but you cannot buy one like a do-it-yourself-divorce down the high street with your weekly shop. 

Penny sets the questions for Family Law journalCPD, a new way to gain CPD points by answering multiple choice questions based on the content of the journal.

She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University Centre for the Study of the Child, the Family and the Law. Click here to follow Penny Booth on Twitter.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.

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