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Home Love Marriage Divorce History in the US

Divorce History in the US

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When Divorce Was Not an Option

The earliest recorded legal divorces among couples in the United States was in Maryland, where married couples were granted the Right to seek Divorce in 1701.  That doesn't mean they were allowed to do it.  Let's just say there was no way to a quick divorce. On the other hand, if you lived in the great state of South Carolina, you would have had to wait until 1949 to be allowed to get a divorce.  

As our country grew, the territories to the West often did allow divorces.  This meant that a female spouse might relocate to Wyoming for a year and then file for a divorce from there.  In the case of a spouse going missing, remarriage without divorce was allowed once the spouse was certified as missing or missing and presumed dead.  Currently women file for more than two thirds of divorces in this country.  Divorce statistics show that women seek divorce more often than men and have done so from the beginning.

Historical Changes in American Divorce Rates

When we stop to consider that it is only in the last one hundred or fewer years that women have been considered full equal human beings with voting right and rights over their own bodies and property, it is no surprise that in the US today, among college educated couples filing for divorce, fully 90% of those divorces are initiated by women. 

At one point in US history, there was no legal way for a couple to end their marriage.  It makes sense that there were no divorces, what did occur was couples living apart and women returning to their homes of origin with their childen to escape unlivable circumstances. 

Before divorce became an option, there is evidence that a great number of women were committed by their male spouses  to insane asylums as a way of making room for a second, unofficial "wife".   It makes sense that when women were considered chattel and not allowed to own property or vote they had no power at all in deciding the outcome of a marriage contract.  The huge strides made in women's right to vote and to own property were stepping stones on the way to giving them rights over their marriages. 

Economic and Religous Values Change Divorce

After the commencement of World War II, a continuous increase in divorce rate was observed. In the year 1950, this rate was 1,070 per 100,000 men and 1,373 per 100,000 for women.  Still if a divorce was considered a contested divorce, it would go nowhere in the courts.  Virtually a spouse could be held captive by the legal system.

Before the advent of uncontested divorce, no-fault divorce, anyone who wanted to get a divorce had to prove allegations based upon cruelty or adultery.   Dissolutions were allowed but for remarriage to occur, the dissolution had to be certified and that took a judge at minimum.

These numbers took a great leap in early and late 1970’s and divorce rates continued to rise. This was due to the fact that in the decade of seventies, no-fault divorce was made available in some states and that led to a continuous increase in divorces.

The number of marriages ending in divorce had risen to 50 percent of marriages expected to end in divorce by the year 2010 as compared to less than 40 percent in the year 1998.