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Divorce In The United States Essay

1250 words - 5 pages

Divorce in the United StatesDivorce involves the recognition that a marriage has hopelesslyfailed and that at least one of the partners has no desire tocontinue the marital relationship. Divorce legally dissolves amarriage, and permits the partners to remarry if they choose.Divorce differs from an annulment, which declares a marriageinvalid because of some flaw in the contract.The early American settlers brought with them three differentviews on divorce: 1) the Roman Catholic view that marriage wasa sacrament and that there could be no divorce; 2) the Englishview that divorce was a legislative matter; and 3) theProtestant view that marriage and divorce were secular mattersto be handled by the civil authorities.The Constitution of the United States did nothing to limit therights of the states to enact their own laws governing marriageand divorce. Despite several efforts to amend the Constitution,to allow Congress to pass federal legislation on divorce, tothis day the states retain separate laws. Because divorce lawsvary from state to state, the 'migratory divorce' developed:couples would move temporarily to a state where divorce waseasier to obtain than at home. For example, a couple living inNew York State, where until 1967 the only grounds for divorcewas adultery, would establish residence in Nevada -- a procedurethat took only 6 weeks -- and file for divorce on grounds ofmental cruelty.Popular attitudes toward divorce changed as the United Statesbecame more urbanized and less religious. The increasingacceptance of divorce was reflected in court interpretations ofexisting laws and in new legislation enacted by the states. Twotendencies merged, making possible the establishment of new andeasier grounds for divorce. The focus of state divorce, whichpreviously concerned itself with specifying legal grounds fordivorce, shifted to criteria concerning the breakdown of themarital relationship. This could be seen in conditions thatallowed divorce for alcoholism, drug addiction, or nonsupport.Another tendency permitted divorce if both parties gave ofvoluntarily separating and living apart for a specified periodof time. For example, in 1967, New York allowed divorce forcouples who had been legally separated for 2 years, eliminatingthe search for a guilty party. In 1969, California permitteddivorce when 'irreconcilable differences' arose, thus becomingthe first state with a 'no-fault' divorce law. Nearly all theother states soon added no-fault divorce options to theirexisting laws.Published statistics show that the United States has thehighest divorce rate in the world, and in recent decades it hasheld fairly steady. In 1975 the rate was 4.9 per 1,000 people(over twice that of Great Britain) and in 1990 it was 4.7 per1,000. It is sometimes said that in the United States, for everyfour marriages, a divorce occurs. Divorce statistics, however,tend to be misleading. In 1990 about 2.4 million marriages tookplace in the United States and about 1.2 million...

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