Divorcing ‘out of the box’
If the Big Society is to work, then we need to start with ‘the family’. Squashing what we consider a healthy family into a single box with “mummy, daddy + kids” has to stop, if we are to evolve into a co-operative nation where the word ‘support’ becomes associated with our community as a whole, instead of just government institutions like the NHS or the Courts.
I live alone with 3 children – but my family isn’t a ‘broken home’. It’s an extended family.
In the Scottish Widows report Centre for the Modern Family, Dr Rake says of the research “… married couples, lone parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles – can all create the strong caring relationships that are the hallmark of a good family life.” But what about families who are not related by blood? Like extended families including ex-partners?
As an illustration of that, my kids and I – along with their dad, bonus mum and bonus brother, appeared on Friday 23 December on BBC Breakfast TV. Sadly, people think it’s ‘weird’ to be a healthy functioning blended family comprised of ex’s and new partners. The Scottish Widows study showed that 22% of families said their family type was not valued by society, and 18% feel actively judged by society for the family model in which they live.
Stop sniping at ‘broken families’ and start praising ‘extended families’
Helping people to ‘break up right – please don’t fight’ and to allow their families to take on new forms in ways that keep them out of court and save them money, requires a collaborative and co-operative approach. Which is why more people need to give mediation and collaborative law serious attention when facing divorce. At the very least, actually talk to a real live mediator and collaborative lawyer and find out how they can – with the co-operation of financial and wellbeing professionals if desired by the couple – help a family go through a massive life change in a way that will usually save them money, keep them out of court and protect their children from becoming used as weapons in a litigious approach to breakup.
Come on Mr Cameron: Stand up for all families in their ever growing complexity, and welcome the fact that in order to achieve a healthy extended family, it requires learning new skills in collaboration. These are the very skills we need to change The Big Society from a rallying cry, into a reality.
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