Unilateral Divorce Laws

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Unilateral Divorce Law is another term for No-fault Divorce Laws. As per these laws, if a partner desires a divorce there is no need to point out any fault of the other spouse to obtain a divorce. In 2004, some conclusions were reached to give some final touches to the law.

Since the implementation of these laws, the following alterations have taken place.

  • The divorce rate has increased
  • Children are marrying at an earlier age
  • Children are having less stable marriages
  • The suicide rate in children has increased

In 2000, Johnson and Mazingo also concluded the above results. In 2006, Wolfers and Stevenson discovered that the states in the United States where these laws were introduced, saw a decrease in the following:

  • Intimate murders of wives
  • Domestic violence
  • Female suicide rates

All the above studies suggest that no-fault divorce laws are a boon for wives but a curse for children. Because of the easy process of getting a divorce, the couples opt for a divorce quickly without taking other factors into consideration. They do not take the efforts to save their marriage as very less energy and time is required for a unilateral divorce. So, the children go through an unwanted breakdown of the family that could have been avoided in many cases.

Thus, there is no-doubt regarding the fact that the introduction of these laws raised the divorce rate. Although, different estimates have been made, there is a general agreement that the raise was in a 10 percent range.

The Basics of Unilateral Divorce Laws

As mentioned above a unilateral divorce can be obtained without proving that a partner is guilty of breaking a marriage. The two main grounds on which a "no-fault" divorce can be taken are:

  • Major differences between partners
  • Separation from the partner for long period

These two reasons are acceptable in the court to grant a divorce. Other procedure may be the same as that of a contested divorce.

History of Unilateral Divorce Laws

In the past, divorces took place for various faults out of which abandonment, cruelty and adultery were common. There were many cases where false evidences were made to prove the marital fault. This was misleading the jurisdiction of the court. Also, many spouses who were unable to prove the faults were forced to stay in a marriage. So, the need for a law that approves a divorce without a fault was felt strongly by the legal authorities.

The 1968 Divorce Act of Canada was the first occasion when "unilateral separation" was appended to the traditional roster of faults. In 1969, the California Divorce Laws substituted fault provisions with "irreconcilable differences" and this was a new ground at that time. At first, this law was not accepted by many religious groups as it was seen as the hurdle to the basic purpose of marriage. In the next 12 years, almost each U.S. state and Western country pursued what California has initiated. The unilateral divorce laws were adopted by the states with less or more changes according to the state laws. The various no-fault divorce laws of these states have one element in common. Any married spouse is entitled to unilaterally divorce his or her partner.

Reasons why Unilateral Divorce Laws affect divorce rates

Some people are of the opinion that due to the introduction of no-fault divorce laws, it has become less expensive to begin a divorce procedure. Some divorce researchers take into account some other aspects of family law that may or may not have altered when the no-fault divorce laws were included. As an example, some jurisdictions canceled grounds of divorce to be a condition for child support, spousal support, child custody and property settlement. Due to these changes, it was concluded that bad demeanor did not essentially result in an inferior divorce settlement. So, there is no such effect of marital fault on the property settlement.

When only the fault system was in existence, the divorcing partners would accede to a fault and observe false swearing in the court. In order for this step to be successful, it was essential that the divorcing partners would have to accept the complete divorce settlement. However, in a unilateral process, there was no need to have the consent of the other divorcing partner to any fault. The implementation of these rules implied that one partner may terminate a marriage as it makes him or her better off, although this meant that the other partner would be worse off.

Thus, unilateral divorce laws represent the divorces which are taken mutually with the consent of the partners. They have been accepted by almost all states in U.S.

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