Marital Dissolution: A Modern Development
In Biblical times, some of the wealthy women would have their own quarters, their own tents, to which their husbands, and other men, were not permitted. This was a prudent move to assure that infidelity would be an improbability.
“Back in the day,” (a couple of thousand years ago) some could say, the only reason for divorce was the proof of an illicit affair. Proof. (Answer me this: without a good PI aided by a telephoto lens or some DNA test or…an eyewitness, how does one prove the presence of an affair?)
This Biblical restriction, like that little rubber band that wraps up your morning paper, kept “things” in check for a long, long time: divorce didn’t happen but couples did split up. Hence the laws about bigamy: marrying another without dissolving the first marriage.
According to the Guardian from a September 2009 article, we find information relating to divorce in the United Kingdom:
- • The 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act allowed ordinary people to divorce. Before then, divorce was largely open only to men, and had to be granted by an Act of Parliament, which was hugely expensive, and therefore was also open only to the rich.
- Under the new law, women divorcing on the grounds of adultery not only had to prove their husbands had been unfaithful but also had to prove additional faults, which included cruelty, rape and incest.
- • A private members’ bill in 1923 made it easier for women to petition for divorce for adultery, but it still had to be proved.
In the United States, divorce began a steady climb shortly after the Civil War. Before the 1970’s, though, divorcing spouses needed to make allegations that the other spouse was guilty of a cirme or sin. Those allegations didn’t necessarily have to be proved. When the acrimony was too much for continued domestic coexistence, informal separations occurred or lawyers were able to negotiate uncontested divorces.
The no-fault divorce revolution began in 1953 in Oklahoma; in 2010, New York became the latest state to allow non-consensual no-fault divorce. (Seems like it should have happened way before that.) [ref]http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?search=divorce+and+civil+war&title=Special%3ASearch[/ref]
Influencing the rate of divorce in the United States — the highest in the world at 50% of first marriages — has a lot to do with economics, the law and family formation — which is being affected by more cohabitation (we’re also seeing this in Scandinavia), an increase in premarital pregnanices.[ref]History and Current Status of Divorce in the United States Authors: Frank F. Furstenberg, http://futureofchildren.org/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=63&articleid=409§ionid=2787[/ref]
Where are families heading and how will divorce be a factor in the future? We’ll take a look at that in another piece and examine some thoughts on why the rates differ around the world: 4% in India; 40% in the United Kingdom; 33% in France.