Marriage was traditionally the relationship that defined the creation of a basic unit of a healthy society – Family.
Marriage symbolized the commitment of two people to each other and the promise to create new life both as a unit of two becoming one and children.
The child[ren] would sometimes be counted as a measure of a successful (even Blessed) union. When the children left the defining unit around which the marriage rotated left a vacant space into which many mature marriages imploded.
The divorce then became the place in which the relationship’s breakdown was given meaning through who got to ‘keep’ the children because the commitment to the child[ren] displaced the need to commit to the definition and redefinition of the meaning of the marriage itself.
With the breakdown of a relationship in which a child is still in the home there needs to be a redefinition of how the sacrifices of a relationship will be sustained through, or despite, the divorce. In many cases the real issue shows up as parenting as a disguise for financial and dependency issues.
Madam Justice Marguerite Trussler is attributed with saying “Marriage is not an Insurance policy”. The years of sacrifice to the relationship are not the premium paid for a payout when the relationship breaks down.
The Family courts feed the treatment of marriage breakdown as an ‘insurable loss’ when preferring to extend the mothers role as childcare giver in the pre breakdown relationship (one Justice recently said that having children is defacto grounds for an award of spousal support) whether or not the mother actually performed the sole caregiver role while making the father responsible for financial support on the premise that a mother cannot also be expected to have a contributing financial role as well and a father having responsibility for the financial role cannot also be a primary parent. Or are we stuck in the 1950’s when it comes to parenting and family attitudes?
The Court’s expectation of the fathers role becomes that of financial provider for the, now broken, family unit even if supporting the mother’s lifestyle ( she apparently cannot be expected to work and look after the home or attain self-sufficiency!) puts him at a lower standard of living than her post separation. He works more, parents less ( because his work takes time away from parenting) and thus justifies claim that he is not around to parent. This is a unique form of ‘glass ceiling’ created by the courts’ interpretation of its function in Family law.