History of Divorce Laws
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Divorce laws are the basis of the divorce procedures in every country. Though divorce is accepted in most of the nations now, the structure of the divorce laws and the implementation of these rules and regulations differ from one country to another country. The history of divorce laws is important as it explains the grounds on which the laws have been developed over the years.
Before going into the details of the history of divorce laws, it is important to know about the influences and prominent factors affecting the laws. The English Law and in particular the decisions of the English ecclesiastical courts had a tremendous effect on the divorce laws in the United States. The grounds for divorce and the inequalities and restrictions of the Canon Law in America had been derived from England.
From the era of Elizabeth, the colonists established the numerous states in America. They adhered to the common law of England. However, they were Protestants and did not have any Episcopal court or Established Church. So, the Canon or Ecclesiastical Law of England was not accepted as it was. In New England, the Puritan legislation acknowledged the right of divorce, but it was scarcely executed.
Views on Divorce in the Earlier Centuries
A divorce is regarded as a disintegration of marital union, which is supposed to be permanent according to the religious scripts. Thus, many groups in the society were against the concept of divorce as marriage was considered as a holy bond formed by the grace of God. Gradually, divorce was accepted on the grounds of marital fault. But, the rights to get a divorce were given to only male spouses first. The changes in economical and social circumstances brought evaluations in the views towards divorce and the laws related to it.
History of Divorce Laws from Independence till 2000 A.D.
In 1782, the United States gained her independence. For more than 50 years divorce by private statute prevailed in a majority of state legislatures. The American Constitution had complete power over the divorce. After this period, the grounds of divorce were defined by the legislatures. The courts of chancery or the ordinary law courts were given the jurisdiction.
The divorce laws of the United States were not made considering the interest of the public or their children. The Canonist and the Reformers followed a concept that the Judge is similar to a Deity. Obviously, the Judges adhered to the Canon Law in one form or another. The Ecclesiastical Law was a section of the common law in England. However, this was in a dormant state in the United States for about two hundred years. The reason was that there were no courts to administer it.
As compared to other nations, the divorce law of the United States is more a judge-made law. This law has a tendency to grant a divorce if there is a scenario that the married couple is irreconcilable.
The authority of the Bishop states that morality and marriage are in a healthy state where the laws of divorce are liberal. However, Mr. Bryce, a recent writer, points out that the rise in the percentage of divorce in the United States indicates a decrease in the standard of domestic morality.
Right from the era when the colonists reached America till the recent past, the fault-based laws of divorce were intact in the United States. Some of the reasons for divorce were abusive and cruel treatment, impotence, regular inebriation, adultery and desertion. Approximately during the mid-1950's, there were several instances of no-fault causes to terminate the marriage. These reasons were loss of sanity, instances of incompatibility and long-term separation. However, the masses in the U.S. had to wait till the 1970's for the no-fault divorce laws to come into force. America took a clue from the United Kingdom. In the U.K., if a marriage was distinctly irreparably damaged, the Judge had the power to issue a divorce decree. California accepted this approach and endorsed its own law.
During the 1980's, the rate of divorce reached a summit in the U.S. Almost 50 percent of the marriages began to terminate in a divorce. However, several people are of the opinion that the laws granting easy divorce are not responsible for this result. The real reasons are pursuit of more joy (i.e. an ability to find a better partner), a major reason for the rise in this number. This in turn has increased the earning power of a woman.
Thus, this is the brief overview on the history of divorce laws. This history is important till date as it provides the basis for legal provisions and amendments in the divorce laws of the country.
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