The Soaring Costs of Divorce

The sexual revolution of the 60s gave us a lot of harmful and destructive things, and no-fault, easy divorce was certainly one of them. By making the marriage contract hardly worth the piece of paper it was signed on, marriage became one of the most easily broken contracts around.

Indeed, instead of viewing marriage as a covenant, we managed to reduce it to a mere contract, and a contract extremely easy to unilaterally break. It is harder to get fired from McDonalds today than it is to walk out on a marriage.

And there are tremendous costs all around when marriages break up. Obviously the couple is torn apart, along with the two families involved in the relationship. If children are part of the marriage, they can suffer horrifically, and for many decades onwards.

divorce 1We now have many quality longitudinal studies on this, demonstrating perfectly clearly that most children suffer hugely from parental divorce, and they feel that pain and angst decades afterwards. So children are often the biggest losers when it comes to divorce. See here for more on this:

But society as a whole also loses big time. Just as marriage is not a mere private affair, but is a public good and a social institution, so too divorce has more than just personal ramifications. All of society is impacted when couples break up. And we all pay a price here – quite literally.

Society suffers when marriages fail, and we all have to bear the costs. And the costs are enormous. A new analysis has shown that divorce in Australia cost us $14 billion a year.

Divorce and family breakdowns are costing the national economy more than $14 billion a year in government assistance payments and court costs, an exclusive News Corp analysis has found. That figure has blown out by $2 billion in the last two years alone, with each Australian taxpayer now paying about $1100 a year to support families in crisis….
A News Corp analysis of information from the federal Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Social Services, shows that this financial year alone the government will spend $12.5 billion on support payments to single parents, including family tax benefits and rent assistance.
Another $1.5 billion will be spent on the administration of the child support system, while the cost to taxpayers from family disputes in Australian courts is $202 million. Almost 50,000 people get divorced each year in Australia, and while the divorce rate declined between 2002 and 2008, it is now on the rise again. Over the last two years, the cost of divorce to the national economy has increased by more than $2 billion, or 17 per cent.

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews, who has long been concerned about such matters, and has even penned a large volume on the importance of marriage, emphasises the need for intervention here, not just picking up the pieces afterwards:

Mr Andrews told News Corp that as early as this month he will act to establish an expert panel on early intervention, which will be made up of a mix of practitioners and academics. It will examine strategies to lower the divorce rate and better identify and assist vulnerable children and young people, including looking at whether more psychologists need to be deployed in kindergartens and preschools across the country. “The reality is that most programs are programs that try to ameliorate the impact of marriage and family relationship breakdowns,” he said. “There is not enough that goes to early intervention.”

Other experts agree:

Academic and relationship expert from the University of Queensland Matthew Bambling said he was not surprised the cost of divorce to the national economy had now toppled $14 billion. “It is one of the key sources of transitory poverty among working people,” Dr Bambling said. “People may be required to rely in greater part on the social welfare system, there is the potential for court costs borne through the government-funded system,” he said.
“If we are not thinking about this as a society, we are likely to pay the price with a lot more mopping up at the other end.” Relationships Australia’s Grant Pearson has welcomed the government’s relationship counselling voucher system and its push to overhaul early intervention strategies. He said more government resources for programs which deliver early intervention, like relationship counselling, would be beneficial both to couples and to the nation’s budget bottom line.

Of course it is not just the financial and wider social costs of divorce that should concern us here. As mentioned, children suffer, adults suffer, and all of society suffers. For example, we have long known that the safest place for a child is with his own biological mother and father who are married.

There simply is no safer place for a child. With widespread divorce, and/or marriage being avoided in the first place, children are at much greater risk of abuse and other problems. A new study on this simply confirms what we have already been aware of.

Dr Jeremy Sammut, a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies, has recently released The New Silence: Family Breakdown and Child Sexual Abuse. In it he documents and demonstrates what we have known for some time now: children are more at risk of abuse in broken homes and non-married households. As the Centre says:

Decades of data show that children who are raised in traditional married families do better, on average, in life than children who are raised in divorced or sole parent families. In other words, family breakdown puts the welfare of children at risk and makes society less equal in areas such as health, education, and employment. Yet we are reluctant to discuss the links between family type and outcomes for children, especially in relation to child sexual abuse.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is investigating ways to better protect children from abuse in organisations including churches, schools, and sporting clubs. This is crucial and overdue work. However, the vast majority of child sexual abuse does not occur in organisations. It takes place within the family, and children in certain types of families are at greater risk than others.
Children, irrespective of socio-economic status, who do not live with both biological parents are far more likely to be sexually abused than their peers in intact families. Girls who live in non-traditional families are sexually abused by their ‘stepfathers’ – the married, cohabiting, or casual partner of a divorced or single mother – at many times the rate that girls are sexually abused by their biological fathers in intact families.

This of course is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Family structure does matter – big time. Married, heterosexual families have been shown, by many thousands of studies, to be the best environment in which to raise children.

All other structures, be they single families, blended families, or homosexual families, are far less safe and helpful to children. The overwhelming forces of political correctness and a derelict mainstream media will seldom discuss these matters. But if we care about our children, then we must.

And if we care about our budget blowouts and mushrooming welfare state, then we should also address the very real financial costs of divorce. If we don’t we will simply see even further deterioration and decline as a nation. No society can long last with such major social upheavals and problems. We need to act soon.

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10 Replies to “The Soaring Costs of Divorce”

  1. Societies “war on traditional marriage” does not help this either. You have kids brought up now thinking that marriage is an “old fashioned and out dated” thing that grandparents did, and not necessary or even passe in todays world. I remember in college working at a diner and congratulating a young man who his friends said was getting married the next day, the young man said “Oh well, if it doesn’t work, I can always get divorced!” Is that a healthy attitude to have the night before your wedding?!

  2. It’s really an excellent article… and as a product pf divorce, I adamantly agree on all points. But, I couldn’t help but wonder as I was reading, “Can the genie ever be put back into the bottle…or Pandora’s furies back into the box??” How can the government be used to ‘fix’ the very problem that it’s created in the first place? Only acts of Divine Intervention seem relevant now.

  3. In my opinion, this is due to an ungodly world view which does not sufficiently value marriage as God designed it. It’s the same reason that many think same-sex marriage is acceptable (even to God!!!!!)

  4. Gods Word teaches to separate and reconcile a marriage. God says ‘I hate divorce’. Why do what God hates?
    A divorce is the worst family tsunami ever.

    Where are churches teaching to love, to support and strengthen marriage and family? Look how many divorce groups there are compared to marriage care groups?

    Divorce is hard heartedness and remarriage is adultery, and that is a matter of salvation!

  5. My letter posted to our PM. Mr Abbott, I have a deep, real concern for saving marriages as this will help to save families.
    In order to save marriages and families, we need to REPEAL no-fault divorce and a
    question I wish to ask is whether ‘no-fault’ divorce is unconstitutional here in Australia.
    I am aware of concerned citizens in the U.S.A. who are now very hopeful of this issue
    being pursued there as, according to a number of Constitutional Lawyers, their ‘no-fault’
    divorce law is ‘unconstitutional’. I would be interested to know if indeed that is also true
    of the ‘no-fault divorce’ law here in Australia.

    A divorce is the worst tsunami a family can experience as it divides and devalues parents,
    children, family, finances and friends. A divorce impacts children and future generations.
    The sanctity of marriage is reduced and invalidated. We only need look at the number of
    people who suicide having come from a divorced family background.

    Mr Abbott, as a family man who supports and endorses marriage, I appeal to you to
    make divorce much more difficult to obtain.

  6. In order to save marriages and families, we need to REPEAL no-fault divorce.

    Who will join is writing to our PM Mr T Abbott and appealing for no-fault divorce? Snail mail is the best to Parliament House, Canberra. The more letters he receives, the more Mr Abbott will take notice. Each letter represents the voices of thousands of others who have not written. Will you write? I just have.

  7. 50,000 people = 25,000 divorces per annum In Australia. Or if you wish to include children in the mix, it’s something less than that.

    Where are the stats on
    a) new marriages (with certificates) per annum
    b) total number of marriages in Australia?

    What is the comparison with the 25,000 above?

    Do the “end of marriage” advocates consider the real stats? Or do they just repeat the (now falsified) mantra “half of this year’s marriages will break down via divorce over the next ‘x’ years” ?.

  8. The traditional family has been the original educational institution -for good or for bad. It has been fortified by the wider culture of nation and immediate society. In western societies it has been fortified by Christian spirituality. Let us not forget that, with the introduction of universal state education, the stability of most families and the common nurturing made it easier for schools to teach literacy and numeracy.
    Yet we are unable to have effective educational productivity in spite of the the billions of $$ spent.
    Make the family unit the base for sound education.
    Put simply, good family environments(even, some in poverty) assist the education process. No-fault divorce has caused the destruction of families-“the basic
    foundation of effective education”

    It is therefore practically a waste of money trying to pour billions into a struggling system that lacks the strong home base for each student.

    Yes, get rid of no-fault divorce laws. Governments must make the contract of marriage “iron -clad” This is the license to procreate,a binding contract and a duty and responsibility. Make a tax system geared to this because the product the nation requires is our most important commodity.
    Married couples who do their duty and nurture children properly could be given a paid gratuity in the upbringing of Children….e.g. at 5 years $?? at 10 years $?? 15 years $?? etc. Also,the partner who defaults by abandoning the duty loses financially and in other ways as seen by law. Of course a pre-marriage education course would be essential prior to the marriage.. Marriage can have a purpose and relieve the state of costs and social burdens
    Governments use their fiscal fists to support strategic industries. Why not have this strategic contract highlighted as National Priority Number One!

    Laurie Ryan

  9. Yes, John Bennett, I believe the best “early intervention” method we could employ is to help reshape the Christian worldview that once pervaded our society, which of course included the knowledge of the sacredness and exclusiveness of marriage. To educate our children about the true nature of marriage that it is a blood covenant, would be very helpful. It appears that what has saved many people from the older generation from making wrong choices in this area is not that they were less sinful in their desires but that they experienced what I like to call “positive peer pressure”, an unwillingness to go against what is socially acceptable. This is no different for young people today, it takes a lot of maturity to be prepared to go against the flow for the sake of what you believe is right. Of course it took many centuries for the culture to absorb those values and we may not have that time on our hands now, so we may well need God’s merciful intervention. And cultural pressure is only a positive steppingstone towards salvation and right living, but it certainly a valuable one.
    Many blessings

    Ursula Bennett

  10. As a person who comes from a divorced home I completely agree with this article. Family identity is huge in shaping a person into who they are, so when that identity is broken it communicates to the children that marriage is not valuable, in effect that part of who they are is not valuable so that can lead to all sorts of trouble. Family should be a safe place, not somewhere that will change at the drop of a hat.

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