Archive for July, 2011
Michael Berrett is a partner with solicitors, Charles Lucas & Marshall, specialising in family law and is also an assistant Anglican Priest working in the Diocese of Oxford. His two roles mean he sees marriage from very distinct perspectives.
When the parties have been married, the Court has powers to make orders to deal with their property and their finances so as to try to ensure ‘fairness.’ Fairness does not relate so much as to who brought which assets into the marriage but as to what would be a fair footing to enable the parties to ‘move on.’
Where couples are not married the Court’s powers to bring about this fairness platform are substantially less. For example, if the mother of a child not in a married relationship has opted out of the employment market in order to bring up a family and to be a homemaker for a while, this is less likely to attract recognition financially than if the parties had been married.
There is also an innate reluctance in the Courts to recognise the effect of ‘Pre-Nuptial Agreements.’ These have become fashionable in trying to engineer what might happen should a marriage break – even before the vows are taken! These agreements try to restrict the Court’s powers and set the parties on the fairest footings they can at the time of break down.
Our legal definition of what constitutes a marriage comes from a very early period in our history. It must be formed on mutual vows between a man and a woman to be committed to each other for life and to the exclusion of all others. It is interesting to note that when civil partnerships were created by Parliament there is no such life time requirement nor is unfaithfulness a specific ground for the dissolution of a civil partnership.
There is no doubt that marriage is therefore a unique and demanding concept. The intention of both parties when it is formed is that it must be life-long and monogamous.
Monogamous and life-long marriage is not an exclusively Christian concept but in the Christian tradition the imagery associated with marriage is that of the commitment of the creator to his creation. It is indissoluble bond based on a relationship rather than on subjection and domination. The word used in the Jewish scriptures is ‘covenant.’ Such a relationship creates a lasting sense of belonging. Belonging and knowing that we are uniquely valued is a quality that many seek and find elusive in our society.
While those who opt for marriage are perhaps thought brave or optimistic, it calls them to a relationship of greater commitment and trust than any other.
Michael Berrett can be contacted on 01235 771234 or email@example.com