Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween News

Happy Halloween, y'all. I've been having a browse through the Guardian online, an activitiy in which I attempt to indulge on at least a semi-regular basis. Today there were several articles which had me grumbling out loud to myself in my room. At moments such as that, I feel the need to share my grumbles with beings other than my assortment of potted plants. So here we go:

Blair refuses to 'undermine' troops with Iraq inquiry

Hang on a minute. How does an inquiry into the start of the war "undermine" the troops? The only people the TRUTH undermines are the criminals. Since we all agree that boys and girls on the ground being shot at are not responsible for starting the war (that credit falls squarely on the politicians), than revealing the truth can in no way damage or tarnish them. Headlines like this make me cringe. This could have come right out of the mouth of W. What are you hiding, Tony???

A huge war chest and soaring ratings -- Clinton looks beyond the senate

Is anyone else remotely bothered by the blatant double-entendre of the word "chest" in this context? How are we ever going to elect a woman if we can't get past the fact that she has boobs, people! Get over it.

Elephants pass mirror test of self-awareness

Cool. I've been saying it for years. Glad science finally caught up with me. Hopefully the recognition that elephants are self-aware will put that much more squeeze on the need to enforce the ivory ban. Probably not (hasn't done much for the chips or gorillas), but here's to hopin'. *raises mug of blueberry tea, takes swig*

New 'divorce' rights for unmarried couples

I have a real problem with this. I appreciate that the government is attempting to achieve what it thinks is protection for people suffering unfortunate financial consequences of breaking up, but in doing so they are seriously restricting the rights of citizens and effectively out-lawing unmarried cohabitation. By granting financial settlements including cash lump sums, monthly support, property, and even part of one partner's pension (!!!) to cohabitees who split up, the government is effectively saying you can't live together outside matrimony because by living together we are recognizing you as married. They are making the act of moving in together a significant financial committment. If people wanted that financial committment, then they could get married! Simple! The government is removing that in-between try-it-out-and-see-how-it-goes stage of unmarried cohabitation as a stepping stone option in many couples' relationships. This is a really really bad idea.

That is all. You may now proceed to eat your candy.


Timorous Beastie said...

Can chips recognise themselves in the mirror? Fuck, we'd better stop eating them, then.

hendrix said...

TB. Chips are not only able to recognise themselves in the mirror but are also able to judge themselves against the media portrayal of the perfect chip. In unbalanced and insecure chips this can lead to the anorexic chips most commonly found in MacDonalds and BurgerKing.

CB. I agree with you on all the above stories except (you knew that was coming) the one about "divorce rights for unmarried couples".

I think that you're ignoring the cases of people (like myself) who for whatever reason aren't treating the cohabition bit as the "try it out and see what happens stepping stone" you mentioned but for whom - this is it.

Now I'm not a lawyer and i have only a hazy understanding of the way things are in Britain right now but as
i understand it (and let me know if I'm wrong here), the law at the moment means that - for example- if F or I suddenly made a lot of money and decided end the relationship then the other person then would not be entitled to any share of the money.

Or what if one of us dies. As far as I'm aware, the way the law stands now is that if either of us dies with no will then our property goes to our next of kin. Not the other partner. Not quite fair either.

What if one of us had been the sole breadwinner for the years leading up to the split? What if I'd stayed at home to look after the children, supported F's career as he moved up the corporate ladder, in short been a wife in all but the eyes of the law? Surely it's a bit unfair to say that just because you've got married your contribution to a relationship is recognised? and surely its just as unfair to demote marriage to being nothing more than a financial arrangement. I must admit - although I'm not exactly a religious person - I rather like the idea of marriage being put firmly back into the realms of something removed from merely being a good tax break.

Remember too that this legislation will protect same sex couples for whom marriage hasn't been an option.

I think that there should be some control on this - that you aren't automatically entitled to half of everything forever more just because you lived together for six months or so but I can't see it as being a wholly bad idea.

Chaucer's Bitch said...

Actually, HC, I was thinking about you and F when I read this. I know that your living together isn't a try-out thing, but if you want the legal recognition that comes with marraige (taxes, medical decisions, wills, divorce rights, etc.), then why not get married? I feel very strongly that this legislation is depriving couples who specifically DON'T want those obligations the opportunity to live together without them. It's making cohabitation an inherently greater committment, and I don't think the government has any more right to define living together as effectively married as they do to deny marraige to anyone seeking it. It's all about choice, and i see this as greatly limiting personal choice and the level of committment that individual couples are comfortable with.

hendrix said...

Well F and I are different because there are a number of personal reasons as to why marriage is not and probably never can be an option for us. But if there wasn’t, why should that make any difference as to whether or not our rights are the same as people who went through a wedding ceremony? We’ve stayed together longer than most of the married couples we know.

Where do you draw the line at this no commitment, no obligation relationship? When does living with someone cease to be the stepping stone on the road to marriage? After 6 months? After a year? Two years? Three years? When do you say “ok that’s it then – we get on – lets get married?” Do you both sit down and decide the deadline beforehand and then as the date draws near, hold a conference to see whether or not you both agree to tie the knot? Do you think that it ever stays that rational? Do you only progress to sharing all of the aspects of your life together once you have a ring on your finger?

OK. What if you are one of these supremely well organised and emotionally mature couples you referred to who don’t see living together as the step before marriage but as an end point in itself and who would like to keep the financial obligations out of the emotional sphere. To live like this – separate incomes, each responsible for their share no obligations is a great theory. But life does not work out that neatly. Does this arrangement mean that you never move out of the house or flat you rented, never buy a place together because one of you couldn’t afford an increased payment out each month? What if one of you owns the property you move into? Does this mean that the other person never pays rent? So one person is effectively living rent free. Or do you split it so that one pays the mortgage/rent and the other pays all the bills up to the value of the mortgage. This might be a financially fair way of doing things – but if you split and one of you owns – then the other person has paid out a lot of money with no return. Of course you could argue that you would have paid out a comparable sum had you lived on your own and that the other person already owned the property but the person who didn’t own would still have paid out a significant amount while the other person - without the added burden of the monthly bills would have come out better off. And if you hadn’t moved in with them surely your life would have progressed to the point of owning a property.

What if one of you loses your job while you’re living together? Do they just survive on a dole cheque (which they wouldn’t get if they were living with someone btw as a partners income is taken into account if you make a claim) Does the person in work hassle the one out of work for their half of the rent? It just doesn’t work. Life is not that neat.

What about children? If as a cohabiting couple you have a child – whether by intent or not – does this no financial strings attached relationship still hold? Who stays at home with the baby? How do you charge for the time that your own career is on hold? How do you chase up the errant parent with no obligation for child support? How do you compete in a job market you might have taken several years out of? You might have left near the top of your profession but that’s no guarantee you get back in at the same level whatever your companies legislation might say. And we’re just talking about people who are in a structured career here not the ones who aren’t.

But, if it all turns to ratshit do you just cut your losses and walk away? I know from experience that it's difficult enough after two years with someone – you end up arguing about who bought what plates or whether a gift from your side of the family is really yours or should be shared, if the television they bought with a small inheritance really is theirs when they were out of work at the time and you were paying all of the bills. It gets nasty.

I know what you’re saying CB about people being able to decide on the relationship that suits them but I still think this isn’t such a bad idea.
Deciding to live with someone is an incredibly big commitment. No-one I know has ever moved in with someone with the idea of "well we'll see how it goes". I see it as being on par with getting married. Whats wrong with recognising that commitment? One of the major problems in Britain is that the belief that there is such a thing as a common- law relationship, that we are automatically entitled to the same rights as a married couple. This is why people don’t make their own provisions for any nasty eventualities which might occur - they think that they’re already covered. From what the article is saying this is not going to be a blanket legislation. It just means that your case will be taken seriously should you chose to make it. I can’t believe that this is a bad thing.

B said...

I feel it necessary to respond to Hendrix here. You are in error about the child support situation in the UK. Being the biological parent of a child makes you liable for child support regardless of any other considerations. That is no different from the situation re children under marriage law. I should start out by commenting that (a) if this legislation only held for those who had opted into it (obviously both parties would need to opt in) and certain other conditions were met (below) I would see it as an advance. To answer an obvious response to an opt in system I could propose the following simple idea: How about all those who live together should have to (say when registering to vote) state whether or not they want to be considered a couple (with them only being considered as such if they both sign up to that). The point that being forced to face the decision every year will ensure that people do not 'just never get around' to opting in.

A quick point: If people aren't educated about the law (common law question) then surely the answer is to educate them not to change the law to be closer to what they thought it said?

I think there are two major problems with this legislation:

1) As I pointed out above it is not opt in. The law commission recommended it to be possible to opt out. This is much better than having no opt out. However:

What about the situation where X claims Y is cohabiting with themself but Y denies this. What is the standard? Is it a matter of a physical relationship? Is it mearly a matter of finance? - When drafting legislation one must make sure that it cannot be abused by untrustworthy parties. With marriage there is a certain protection in having a choice over who you marry. You do not choose with whom you cohabit to the same degree (for instance you may share a house with another tenant who you don't get to pick). Imagine the situation that another person Z living in a house I'm in gives up their job and a year or two later claims that I was in a relationship with them and they gave their job up to help me out... further claiming that we've now split up and that they should be entitled to maintenance payments from myself. How do I prove that I wasn't in such a relationship with Z? Suppose I'm lying? How does Z prove I was in a relationship with them? What if I did have a casual physical relationship with Z (but nothing serious)? What if I did spend hours providing emotional support for Z? Does that mean I'm regarded as being in a relationship with Z? What if Z told everyone they know I was going out with them?

If I have to opt into this legislation then I know what I'm getting myself into. Otherwise if I live with anyone (say as a student or because I'm poor) I have to keep watching my back to make sure that no one can claim to be in a relationship with me. If someone does make such a claim it could mean years of litigation before the case is thrown out (knowing how efficient the family courts are today (A cousin of mine has great (strange usage I know) experience with them)). Finally on this point the legislation would undermine the sexual revolution. It should be possible for people to have casual consential relationships of any sort. This legislation with add a significant finacial risk to doing so with someone with whom you live.

2) There is a real risk of slavery from such a law (yes I do mean that). When two people get married it is part of the job of the registra to ensure that there is no coercion (indeed that the marriage is not forced). This is for good reason because marriage can be used as a means of financial or sexual control:


In a similar way an abusive house mate may coerce you into signing up for coverage under this legislation (even more dangerous with an opt out policy where they just need to prevent you from actively opting out) and then seek to control you by threats of financial claims under the law.

Given this I think it is essential that when people sign up for this there is some process for ensuring that there is no coercion (which of course would mean it has to be opt in).

First Nations said...

we were together 13 years before we married, and then it was for the legal protections because we were buying a house. marriage is about property, always has been, always will be.
we were married in a civil ceremony.
it worked.
I'm with cb on this one.

ZB said...

A huge war chest and soaring ratings -- Clinton looks beyond the senate

Is anyone else remotely bothered by the blatant double-entendre of the word "chest" in this context? How are we ever going to elect a woman if we can't get past the fact that she has boobs, people! Get over it.

Are you shitting me? Do you seriously think that they used the word 'chest' in the context of H Clinton to make a double entendre about her sex? Maybe you might consider that the phrase 'war chest' has been around for centuries and has been used, without fail, in the context of a political or authority figure planning a run to a position for almost as long. I'm fairly sure that whoever wrote it was writing without recourse to the fact that she's got tits and a bigger dick than her husband.

H-C; You better be kidding when you say that you're never getting married. Tell me you are or I'll disown you as my sister. It isn't about the legalese, the spirituality or the religion. It's about celebrating your love and committing to it - not just for yourselves but for your friends and family to celebrate as well.