Marital Breakdown and Divorce Essay

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Marital Breakdown and Divorce

Over the last 40 years, sociological research has provided statistics suggesting a significant increase in the number of marriages ending in divorce. In this essay I aim to justify this increase and explain why statistics may give a misleading picture. The way I have decided to structure this essay is firstly to look at a brief history of the laws governing divorce over the last century, then to discuss the statistics and finally to conclude with possible reasons and feasible explanations as to why there has been such an increase.

The divorce courts were first established in 1857, under the Matrimonial Causes Act, thus enabling the middle classes to get
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Then, in 1969, there was a major breakthrough in divorce legislation with the Divorce Reform Act. This meant that the courts would now recognise that a marriage could simply have broken down irretrievably taking away the issue of guilt and the Matrimonial Proceedings Act of 1984 meant that it was now possible to get divorced after just a year of marriage as opposed to what had previously been three years. Finally, in 1995, the need to prove fault, such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, in a marriage was removed. However, couples were compelled to stay together for a year and to try to work out their differences or to negotiate their own settlements. (A Divorce History, 1996)

As mentioned earlier, statistics may give a misleading picture and so it is not possible to look at statistics alone. Obviously, if divorce laws are relaxed, there will be an increase in the number of divorces during the period immediately following the relaxation of the law. Even though there has been a steady increase in the rate of divorce, there have also been peaks. In 1945 the reason was the end of the WWII; in the 1960's the reason was relaxation of the laws; and again in 1984 when divorce was made even easier. However, the number of divorces does not necessarily
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