Divorce in the United States

Essay by Tony1High School, 10th gradeF, May 1996

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Divorce in the United States

Divorce involves the recognition that a marriage has hopelessly

failed and that at least one of the partners has no desire to

continue the marital relationship. Divorce legally dissolves a

marriage, and permits the partners to remarry if they choose.

Divorce differs from an annulment, which declares a marriage

invalid because of some flaw in the contract.

The early American settlers brought with them three different

views on divorce: 1) the Roman Catholic view that marriage was

a sacrament and that there could be no divorce; 2) the English

view that divorce was a legislative matter; and 3) the

Protestant view that marriage and divorce were secular matters

to be handled by the civil authorities.

The Constitution of the United States did nothing to limit the

rights of the states to enact their own laws governing marriage

and divorce. Despite several efforts to amend the Constitution,

to allow Congress to pass federal legislation on divorce, to

this day the states retain separate laws.

Because divorce laws

vary from state to state, the 'migratory divorce' developed:

couples would move temporarily to a state where divorce was

easier to obtain than at home. For example, a couple living in

New York State, where until 1967 the only grounds for divorce

was adultery, would establish residence in Nevada -- a procedure

that took only 6 weeks -- and file for divorce on grounds of

mental cruelty.

Popular attitudes toward divorce changed as the United States

became more urbanized and less religious. The increasing

acceptance of divorce was reflected in court interpretations of

existing laws and in new legislation enacted by the states. Two

tendencies merged, making possible the establishment of new and

easier grounds for divorce. The focus of state divorce, which

previously concerned itself with specifying...