Free Essay on Divorce in the United States

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Free Essay on Divorce in the United States


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 legal grounds for
divorce, shifted to criteria concerning the breakdown of the
marital relationship.  This could be seen in conditions that
allowed divorce for alcoholism, drug addiction, or nonsupport.
Another tendency permitted divorce if both parties gave of
voluntarily separating and living apart for a specified period
of time.  For example, in 1967, New York allowed divorce for
couples who had been legally separated for 2 years, eliminating
the search for a guilty party.  In 1969, California permitted
divorce when "irreconcilable differences" arose, thus becoming
the first state with a "no-fault" divorce law.  Nearly all the
other states soon added no-fault divorce options to their
existing laws.

      Published statistics show that the United States has the
highest divorce rate in the world, and in recent decades it has
held 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 per
1,000. It is sometimes said that in the United States, for every
four marriages, a divorce occurs.  Divorce statistics, however,
tend to be misleading.  In 1990 about 2.4 million marriages took
place in the United States and about 1.2 million divorces --
about one divorce occurred for every two marriages.  It would be
equally true, however, to say that 80 percent of all married
people are still in their first marriage.

      Statisticians speak of the "crude" divorce rate -- the number
of divorces per 1,000 population.  The crude divorce rate of 4.7
in 1990 in the United States may be compared with a crude
marriage rate of 9.7 (9.7 marriages per 1,000 population).  An
even better measure is the number of marriages or divorces per
1,000 "population at risk," that is, the total number of persons
who are in fact married at the time.  In the United States in
1987, there were 123 divorced persons for every 1,000 married
persons;  in other terms, the divorced portion equaled about 12
percent of the married portion of the population.

      When marriage and divorce rates in several countries several
factors must be taken into account: the proportion of the
population that is of marrying age, the proportion that marry,
and the age at marriage.  Because people now live longer and
marry earlier, the size of the population "at risk" increases.
Only in Japan is the married proportion of the population as
high as it is in the United States.  Moreover, Americans who get
divorced are likely to remarry.  In the mid-1980's approximately
50% of divorced U.S. women remarried.  Sixty years earlier, two
out of three divorced persons did not remarry.  If the divorce
rate has risen noticeably, so has the marriage rate.

      Anthropologists report that many societies have even higher
divorce rates than that of the United States.  For example,
Nigeria would have a divorce rate approaching 100 percent if
some married people did not die young.  The belief that high
divorce rates reduce social organization has not been proved.
The social effects of divorce depend on what happens to families
that experience it and on the arrangements society makes for

      Divorce can be a devastating experience.  While the divorce is
in progress, and for some time afterward, both parties are
likely to feel personally rejected, cheated in the economic
arrangements, misrepresented legally, bitter about the
co-parental arrangements, lonely because they have lost friends,
and afraid of living alone.

      In the United States, the mother traditionally has been
supported economically by the father, and granted custody of the
children unless she is found unfit by the courts.  The father is
usually awarded more material possessions and awarded the right
to visit the children regularly.  Prolonged and bitter struggles
for legal custody have often scarred both parents and children.
In extreme cases, the parent losing a custody conflict, or upset
about material divisions may even resort to burglary or
kidnapping his or her own children.

      In recent decades, however, other patterns of child custody and
economic arrangement have emerged alongside the old.  Some
mothers have voluntarily relinquished custody in order to pursue
other goals, or because they believe the children may fare
better with the father.  Joint custody has also become more
common, with parents sharing responsibility for the raising of
their children, even after remarriage.  Fair divisions of
material possessions are rising as more women enter the work
force and consequently contribute equally.

      Divorce has become an ingrained part of American society --
almost similar to marriage.  Previously, I believed that married
couples with children should avoid divorce for the sake of their
children.  However, after compiling data for this report and
discussing divorce with others, I have determined that
dissatisfied couples -- who avoid divorce -- often take their
anger out on their children.  This practice often harms the
child emotionally -- or in some cases -- physically.  Although
my parents are not divorced, I have become acquainted with many
people whose parents are divorced.  Through discussions, I have
determined that most of these people felt relieved when their
parents finally got divorced -- because it ended the constant
arguing and violence at home.















Albrecht, Stan L., et al., Divorce and Remarriage (1983);


      AUTHOR:     Albrecht, Stan L.

      TITLE:      Divorce and remarriage : problems, adaptations, and
      adjustments / Stan L. Albrecht, Howard M. Bahr, and Kristen L. Goodman.

      PUBL.:      Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press,

      FORMAT:     xiii, 211 p. ; 25 cm.

      DATE: 1983


Belli, M., and Kranzler, Divorcing (1988);


      AUTHOR:     Belli, Melvin M., 1907-

      TITLE:      Divorcing / by Melvin Belli and Mel Krantzler.

      PUBL.:      New York : St. Martin's Press,

      FORMAT:     xii, 434 p. ; 23.5 cm.

      DATE: 1988


Clapp, Genevieve, Divorce and New Beginnings (1992);


      AUTHOR:     Clapp, Genevieve.

      TITLE:      Divorce and new beginnings : an authoritative guide to
            recovery and growth, solo parenting, and stepfamilies / Genevieve Clapp.

      PUBL.:      New York : Wiley,

      FORMAT:     xv, 377 p. ; 23 cm.

      DATE:       1992


Myers, M. F., Men and Divorce (1989);


      AUTHOR:     Myers, Michael F.

      TITLE:      Men and divorce / Michael F. Myers.

      PUBL.:      New York : Guilford Press,

      FORMAT:     xv, 286 p. ; 24 cm.

      DATE: 1989


Splinter, John P., The Complete Divorce Recovery Handbook (1992);


      AUTHOR:     Splinter, John P.

      TITLE:      The complete divorce recovery handbook : grief, stress,
            guilt, children, co-dependence, self-esteem, dating, remarriage/
            John P. Splinter.

      PUBL.:      Grand Rapids, Mich. : Zondervan,

      FORMAT:     p. cm.

      DATE: 1992


Walzac, Yvette, and Burns, Sheila, Children and Divorce (1984).


      AUTHOR:     Teyber, Edward.

      TITLE:      Helping children cope with divorce / Edward Teyber.

      EDITION:    1st pbk. ed.

      PUBL.:      New York : Lexington Books ; Toronto : Maxwell Macmillan
            Canada;     New York : Maxwell Macmillan International,

      FORMAT:     ix, 221 p. ; 24 cm.

      DATE: 1994




















































































































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