History of Divorce

Background: “I just got a divorce,” is a phrase that is becoming more of a social norm in today’s society more than ever. According to the Oxford dictionary divorce is defined as such: The legal dissolution of a marriage by a court of other competent body (“Divorce”). Meaning, as soon as all the documents are signed by both the parties involved, the legal marriage, through the court, is officially over. Just because the documents were signed on a certain date, doesn’t mean the marriage ended at that point. Legally, yes it ended on this date on this time, but for the couple it could of ended a while ago. In a lot of the divorce cases nowadays, divorce isn’t usually the first option for most couples, it the last. Most couples nowadays go to either couples counseling or just push aside everything and stay together for the sake of their children. Divorce has been around since the early 1800’s, but it wasn’t very common in those days.

It wasn’t common because it was only available to men and had to be granted by Parliament, which was super expensive in the 1800’s. With that, only the elite of the time could afford to divorce (“A Brief History of Divorce”). In 1857, The Matrimonial Causes Act, now allowed for ordinary people to divorce. Since that act passed in 1857, now ordinary people can afford to divorce without Parliament being involved, and without being extremely wealthy to afford Parliaments time. With having that act pass, woman can now divorce their husbands on the grounds of adultery, but they had to have proof of their husbands being unfaithful. Not only that, but they also had to prove things such as rape and incest in order to divorce their husbands. In 1923 the United States enacted a private members’ bill that now made it easier for women to file for a divorce for adultery, but the downside was that it still had to be proven. In 1937, that same law was changed and divorce was now allowed to be filed because of drunkenness, insanity and desertion. A big change happened in 1969 when the Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, signed the nation’s first no fault divorce bill. Some say he did it because he was tired of the deception that often came with the fault-based divorce.

With the new law, it eliminated the need for couples to come up with who did what wrong in order to get a divorce. Now with the no-fault divorce bill, it allowed one spouse to end the marriage for any reason, or for no reason at the same time. With this new bill in place in California, other states soon followed with a no-fault divorce bill of their own. With that new bill introduced, it now means divorce is on the rise. From the years 1960 to 1980, the divorce rate more than doubled from roughly about 10% to about 22%. That is means that roughly not lot of couples who married in 1950 ended up divorced, but about half of the couples who married in 1970 did divorce from their spouse (“The Evolution of Divorce”). And because of that reason, the children born to those once married parents in the 70s also saw their parents get a divorce later in their lives. Introduction: “At least half of all marriages end in divorce,” is a common phrase that many have heard in their lifetime, but nowadays the divorce rate isn’t as high as it once was. Since the 90s, about 70% of marriages that began in the early 90s have roughly reached their 10th anniversary or so. With that new statistic, that means the marriage length rate roughly rose about 65% since the 70s and 80s (“Divorce.”).

The couples who married in the 2000s are continuing to lower the divorce rate. If this current trend continues, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce (Miller). According to the New York Times, divorce rates have gone down a lot is because of later marriages, the use of birth control and the rise of the so-called “love marriages” (Miller). Also, much of the downfall of divorce has to do with the changing of gender roles. Meaning, men aren’t the only breadwinners in today’s society like they once were. Another thing impacting the lower divorce rate is that some people are just choosing not to marry nowadays. Divorce is such a multifaceted issue that presents several consequences that impact American Society by causing psychological issues in newly divorced couples, it can also be the origin of the psychological issues found in children of a broken home, and lastly, it can cause a lot of financial stress on the newly divorced couples due to legal fees and other factors. Supporting Evidence: Many people forget to mention the psychological effects that a divorce can have on the recently divorced couple. Studies show that suicide rates are higher in recently divorced couples over married couples.

The rate for this issue in males is nearly doubled than the rate for females with this psychological illness (“Suicide Rates High in Divorced Men”). One theory that is out there is that the reason the suicide rate is higher for males is because they see it as it’s easier to end one’s own life, then to deal with the emotional and financial debt of the divorce. Is that true? Not necessarily. There can be several possibilities to why the suicide rate for divorced males is higher than those of females. Sociology professors at the University of California and their research suggest that many stem from the separation between father and child (Kposowa). Meaning, in divorce cases involving child custody, the court is more likely going to grant primary or full custody to the mother because of the simple assumption that the bond between mother and child is stronger than the one between the father and child. In those certain custody cases, many of the fathers have it in there minds that they’ve not only lost their marriage entirely, but also their children and any assets or property that was divided during the process of getting the divorce (Stack). Losing everything can really drive up depression in anyone, just so happens in this case it’s the males. Another popular theory is that after a divorce, men keep to themselves, and they don’t seek help. They try to isolate themselves from society. While they’re doing that, they create an unhealthy environment due to their poor mental health. With them doing that, it doesn’t just affect their social life, but also can take a toll on their work performance.

That is known as the spiraling effect. Which basically means, with every little thing that they change in their life for the worse, the worse it will become and vice versa. With that effect in play in a negative way, it can create a toxic environment that allows for suicidal thoughts to appear. Yes, all of this can happen to the females involved as well, but research shows that it is more common to happen to males after a divorce because the males are less likely going to seek help. Most men don’t want to seek help for their problems or issues because they find it demeaning to their masculinity (“Suicide Rates High in Divorced Men”). Most men who are in that mindset, think that just because they ask for help, it makes them seem weak. For both males and females, seeking help for this psychological issue isn’t showing weakness, it’s showing strength. It shows strength because they had the courage to seek help before they were too far gone, or worse yet, dead. These aren’t the only psychological issues that can happen, more of these psychological issues can be found in the children of these broken homes. As previously mentioned earlier, a divorce can be the origin of the many psychological issues found in children of a broken home. Getting a divorce isn’t easy for anyone involved, but it can become a very difficult process if children are involved. It’s difficult because Child Protective Services (CPS) can get involved while the custody court is going on. CPS deals with matters having to do with the well being of children.

In a usual custody case, CPS doesn’t get involved, until they are called upon by either one of the parents or the court. While it’s said that most courts do side with the mother in taking primary care of the children, CPS looks into the best possible living condition for the children. Meaning, CPS can do background checks on both parents, they can decide where the children will have the best living conditions, as well as, look at the income of the parents to decide who the child should live with in order for them to have proper living conditions. That’s just a few things for the parents, for the children, CPS can make the decision to either take the children and give them to the parent who didn’t call CPS because they believe that the complaining parent is causing emotional abuse to the children involved by making the other parent (who didn’t call) seem incapable of taking care of the children (“Child Custody Battles”). Another thing CPS can do is put the children in foster care for the time being. Being ripped away from one’s family, in the eyes of a child, can be a psychological traumatizing event.

Another psychological state the child can go into is depression. Depression doesn’t care how old you are, it can affect everyone. The child can fall into a depressed state of mind because they lost a parent. What is meant by that is that they “lost” a loved one because they no longer live with them, or see them daily. Nowadays many schools offer a school therapist for this reason so the children can be comforted and can talk about everything that is going on in their life in a safe environment (Bezuidenhout). Another thing that can happen in teens is that they can lash out and get into trouble. According to sociologists, Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, authors of, “Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps,” bring out some interesting statistics. According to their research, 31% of children with divorced parents dropped out of high school, compared to the 13% of children from intact families. They also found that 33% of young girls whose parents divorced became teen mothers, compared to 11% of girls from continuously married families.

McLanahan and Sandefur found out that 11% of boys who come from divorced families end up spending time in prison before the age of 32, compared to 5% of boys who come from intact home. Other than psychologically affecting everyone involved, a divorce can cause a lot of financial stress on the newly divorced couple, due to legal fees and other factors. No one can really say how much a divorce can cost for sure, but according to Joe Dillion of the HuffPost, there is five main factors that can either help or make a divorce more financially stable. The first way is called the “Do-It-Yourself Divorce.” Meaning that the help of an outside party isn’t required. Doing this method just requires the cooperation of both parties and paying the direct fees tied in with the paperwork for filing for divorce. It is estimated to be anywhere from $300-$1,500. It just depends on the case and specific court and paperwork fees. Dillion isn’t the only person saying that the “Do-It-Yourself Divorce” is the best way route to take financially. Sandra Block, the author of the article, “A Money Smart Divorce” also agrees with Dillion. Block says in her article that “dividing assets in a gray divorce and keeping it civil,” helps keep the financial stress low. The second factor according to Dillion’s five main factors, is “Internet Divorce.” Meaning that the use of the internet is required.

The “Internet Divorce” and the “Do-It-Yourself Divorce” are very similar. They still require the cooperation of both parties in order to get everything done. The only difference is that the use of an Internet Divorce Service is used. The software alone can cost roughly $300. So add that $300 to the cost of everything else, and the “Internet Divorce” can cost anywhere from $600-$1,800. The third method is called “Divorce Mediation.” With this method the couple uses a neutral third-party mediator, who is usually knowledgeable in the laws and finances of divorce. The mediator then helps the couple figure out everything. This isn’t the most expensive option, but it isn’t cheap either. Depending on how bad the divorce case is, the price can range from $3,000-$7,000. The fourth option is the “Lawyer-Driven Option.” This option varies from state to state and can take either a long time or can be done quickly because it’s significantly state-to-state and lawyer-to-lawyer. In this method either one or both parties hire a lawyer to help them complete everything required. With the lawyer, they are trying to get the best outcome for their client unlike the mediator who tried to make it fair. This option can cost anywhere between $78,000-$200,000. That is including the cost of the lawyer per hour, and the usual court fees and paperwork fees. A divorce lawyer can cost anywhere from $200-$500 per hour. That’s where it really kicks up the cost. Finally, the fifth option is the “Collaborative Divorce” or “Collaborative Law Process.”

With this final option, it’s a combination of the lawyer-driven divorce and the divorce mediation options. Both parties hire a lawyer and they go to a third party mediator and get everything figured out and sorted out. This option doesn’t have a cost because it varies with lawyer cost, mediator cost, case complexity, court fees, and paperwork fees. Once again that can range anywhere from $78,000-$200,000. A divorce can literally range from roughly $300-$200,000. This is where most divorced couples run into the financial stress of going through a divorce because it is never know to what extent they are willing to go once it comes down to it. Closing Statement: In conclusion, a simple bill that was introduced by Ronald Reagan in 1969 increased the divorce rate in the 70’s and 80’s. That is because it was the nation’s first non-fault divorce bill. Meaning, once that bill passed, couples could stop pointing fingers at each other in the “who did what wrong” motion in order to get a divorce from each other because before that bill passed, couples had to either come up with false accusations or have actual proof why they need to be divorced from each other. Once Reagan passed that bill in California, many states followed and made their own similar bill causing divorce rates hit its peak in the 80’s. Since the 80’s the divorce rate is now on a steady decline because people are doing things to help their marriages, like counseling, or they just aren’t getting married anymore. In the end divorce is still a multifaceted issue that presents several consequences that impact American Society by causing psychological issues in newly divorced couples, it can also be the origin of the psychological issues found in children of a broken home, and lastly, it can cause a lot of financial stress on the newly divorced couples due to legal fees and other factors. But yet, maybe divorce isn’t so bad.

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