Penny Booth: Core - wotta lotta news!

22 MAR 2010

Core - wotta lotta news!

Penny BoothThis week in Family Law starts with issues that seem to be at the crux of matters family in the law right now. Were this to be 'a tabloid' approach in news (perish the thought!) then I would have to say - "Core - what timing!" wouldn't I? (Possibly spelling it 'wot', I'm not sure if my early English language experiences would let me do that, never mind know how to spell it correctly). As this week starts we are faced with whether there really is to be any effect from prenuptial contracts, whether we should be stating what kind of marriages will be supported and encouraged by the State, and what we do about child care and protection.

Any of the above would be 'food for thought' but all three together in one go give us indigestion. In brief, then...

Starting with the last mentioned - are we really any further forward? Is there a glimmer of hope for child protection - yes, I think so. Some sacked social workers in one case seems to suggest that dereliction of duty is recognised for what it is - it is possible to perform a social worker's job just plain wrongly, and this gives hope. Many must be doing it right! Could it be that our society is not just teetering at the edges of proper child care and rotting in the dark recesses of sink estates and externally attractive middle-class homes with poverty of proper care and upbringing? We really do have standards to which we might just be able to subscribe. Is it more money that is needed - or just to do the job properly, with a resurgence of parental care?

Baroness Deech, family law professor and cross-bencher, is reported in Saturday's Times (page 8 on 20 March) as calling this week for a 'vigorous' campaign to discourage marriage between cousins. That will not go down well among some ethnic groups for whom it is a method of retaining family ties and groupings supporting wealth and connection. I do not disagree, considering the evidence of the consequences of such close marriage and recessive disorders among children, but I hear the screech of ethnically gated communities closing them as I write. How to encourage marriage indeed, but it really must be of the right sort; but wait, we have precious little trouble from that quarter, surely? Is it religion or is it culture? Islamic teaching encourages marriage outside the immediate family but the prolific occurrence of first cousin marriage is an issue which Baroness Deech will cover in her lecture this week (one of a series under the auspices of Gresham College) so if you can watch this space.

Today - never mind love, hang on to your money! The Supreme Court and the continuing saga of prenuptial contracts has its next episode to hand. I've waved this one under the nose of my husband of thirty years but to no avail. "Too late!" he wails; "No money!" wail I. (We've both spent years in the education business, what do you expect?) It will be interesting to read the result 'from the top', as it were, but surely all this is just for the rich? How is it that other countries have never seemed to have much problem with contractual arrangements for the family-way partnered, yet we in the UK blanch at the mere thought of setting down our (financial) arrangements should the dreadful event happen? Perish the thought that we can consider the murky subject of money at the very gates of marital paradise. Well, if we cannot measure contributions to the family via some other method than straight-talking financial contributions, as far as I can see it, that's all to the good!

Politicians - over to you, let's hear your blithe, tripping-off-the-tongue "home-made apple pie must be right" banalities one more time before election day.

Penny Booth 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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