The Effect of Law Changes on the Growth of Divorce Rate

The Effect of Law Changes on the Growth of Divorce Rate
Divorce is the legal termination of a marriage. There is no doubt that divorce is much more common, becoming a norm almost. If present trends continue, it is estimated that 1 in 3 marriages will end in divorce, but is it the alteration in the legal grounds that is causing this trend? In this essay I will look at the other aspects that could be the foundation for the growth of divorce and state which I think is the most important factor. Prior to 1857, divorce could only be obtained by a private Act of Parliament. The grounds for divorce were based on matrimonial offences such as adultery, cruelty and desertion. There was a social class divide however, only rich could obtain a divorce at this time
Also men had more rights than women demonstrating a gender divide too. This changed in 1923 as The Matrimonial Causes Act, after the movement of feminism, gave women equal rights for the first time and they had the opportunity to terminate the marriage. In 1949 The Legal Aid and Advice Act cut out this social divide and provided free legal advice and financial help to those who could not cope with the costs of divorce such as the working class and women. Divorce became more accessible in 1971 when The Divorce Reform Act stated that there was no need to prove a partner guilty of a matrimonial offence, but the marriage was an ?irretrievable breakdown? which was beyond repair, overturning previous blame of one partner. However if both parties wanted a divorce they would have to wait two years compared to that of five years if only one partner did. Divorce was made quicker to obtain in 1984 when The Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act reduced the period that a couple needed to be married before they could petition for a divorce from three years to just one year. It also altered the basis that financial settlements were determined by the court. The Family Law Act of 1999 ended the reliance upon showing that one of both partners were at fault, they just had to assert the marriage had broken down and undergo a period of reflection, of nine months, to ?cool off? and consider whether reconciliation was possible. Counselling was encouraged and the courts accounted for children that were involved instead of automatically assuming that the children should live with the mother. This was an attempt to stem the rising number of divorces. There could be many factors that will explain the rise of divorce, one being the change of social attitudes. There is now a considerably less social stigma and blame attached to divorce; it is becoming more socially acceptable. This reduction in stigma could be a result of secularisation, the decreasing influence of religion in contemporary society. Less than 50% of marriages now involve a religious ceremony, and even those that do might not be based on a religious institution for religious reasons. The idea of a lifelong marriage blessed by God is clearly less significant now than previously. Attitudes towards the effect of divorce on children may have shifted. It had been considered in the past that couples should remain together for the sake of the children. Now it is more commonly thought that children are better off if parents split up so that they are not exposed to constant parental conflict. Another factor could be the changing roles and attitudes of women. The movement of feminism has created better rights under divorce laws, increased job opportunities and the provision of state financial support can all be seen as contributing to enhancing the bargaining position of women in conjugal relationships. Women have, in the past 100 years, achieved many new rights in terms of property, the vote, employment and education, and the rise in divorce may reflect this shift in the position of women within society and make them less willing to accept an ?empty shell marriage?. They have a higher expectation of marriage- the reality of it does not match the dream. Women want emotional and sexual compatibility and equality, as well as companionship. They expect far more than men and in particular they value friendship and emotional gratification more than men do. If husbands fail to live up to these expectations, women may feel the need to look elsewhere- leading to a divorce. They now have economic and emotional independence and can terminate the marriage if they are unhappy. Indeed it may have changed altogether, the boundaries of the ?acceptable? within marriage. In 1946, 45% of petitions were by wives. In 1986-1990, 73% of petitions were by wives. Legislation cannot be seen as the main cause of higher divorce rates, it has simply made divorce easier to obtain if couples want it. Clearly some couples are taking advantage of more liberal divorce laws, although it should be noted that changes in the law often reflect prior changes in public opinion. The acts prior to 1999 might have been a factor that caused the growing rate of divorce but the Government recognised this trend and tried to control it by providing a ?cooling off? period and counselling, so I don?t think that particular divorce law is the main factor that caused the increase of divorce. Personally I think that there is no one factor that is causing the growth of divorce. All the factors that I have written about play a part, they all link together; there is not one single explanation for this demographic issue.

The Effect of Law Changes on the Growth of Divorce Rate 8.1 of 10 on the basis of 4203 Review.