Easy divorce sends out the message that marriage is “disposable”, a former Tory leader says.
Iain Duncan Smith, who heads leading think-tank the Centre for Social Justice, says marriage leads to the “best outcomes for adults and children”.
And he criticises the idea of quick and easy divorces which he says would “achieve the very opposite to that which is best for British society”.
Mr Duncan Smith was responding to a call by a group of lawyers who want Britain’s divorce laws to be weakened.
Last year a Government-commissioned report found that children whose parents separate are likely to suffer “enduring” problems with their education, mental health and future relationships.
Girls are often worst hit by the consequences of their parents’ separation later in life, experiencing more anxiety and depression as adults than their male counterparts, the report said.
In a separate survey of 1,600 under ten-year-olds, divorce topped the list of things they would ban first if they ruled the world.
Mr Duncan Smith, writing in the Independent, said that “unduly easy divorce sends the message that marriage can be treated lightly, that it is not something to work at but is instead disposable”.
He continued: “This attitude is disastrous for society: family breakdown profoundly impacts both adults and children, leading to poorer mental and physical health and poorer life outcomes.”
He also said: “Marriage, as the family form which leads to the best outcomes for adults and children, should be championed and supported.”
In July Mr Duncan Smith’s think-tank launched a report which recommended a three-month “cooling off” period for couples seeking a divorce.
The report also suggested marriage classes before tying the knot and counselling to help prevent marriages from breaking down.
Mr Duncan Smith, commenting on the July report, said the measures will “help to save some worthwhile marriages”.
In June last year a leading family judge warned a culture of broken relationships is scarring children and damaging society.
Mr Justice Coleridge said the breakdown of families has become an “epidemic” and “a matter of concern for us all, especially where so many children are infected by it”.
To stem the tide, marriage should be affirmed as the “gold standard” of relationships, he said.
Mr Justice Coleridge, who presided over the high-profile divorce of Heather Mills and Sir Paul McCartney, spoke of a “complete and uncontrolled free-for-all where being true to oneself and one’s needs is the only yardstick for controlling behaviour”.