History of Divorce in England

Prior to the 1850’s marriage was viewed as an indissoluble lifelong union and separating from your husband or wife was almost impossible. divorce financial paperwork Only in extreme situations could couples be granted to live apart but even then they were still officially married.
In 1857 the Matrimonial Causes Act allowed ordinary people to divorce; it had previously had to be granted by an Act of Parliament. Even where this was possible it was very expensive and the vast majority were unable to afford it. And women could not apply for divorce; it had to be the man.
The Matrimonial Causes Act did make it possible for women to pursue divorce but it was still more difficult for them than it was for men. The only acceptable grounds for divorce for either party was adultery and it had to be proved. Unlike men, women had to prove other reasons why they were seeking a divorce in addition to this; adultery alone was not enough.
Things were made easier for women in 1923 when it was decided they could petition for divorce solely on the grounds of adultery. This still had to be proved though, and was the only acceptable grounds for divorce. The list of possible reasons was expanded in 1937 when it became possible to divorce due to drunkenness, insanity or desertion for a least a three year period. Divorce could not be petitioned in the first three years of a marriage and one spouse had to accuse (and prove) one of these faults in their husband or wife. The so-called guilty party could not be the one to initiate the divorce.
The Divorce Reform Act of 1969 transformed the way divorce worked in England, and much of the act still works in a similar way to this day. The previous reasons for divorce were scrapped and the list reformed. It was now possible to divorce after being separated for two years if both parties agreed, or after being separated for five years if only one party was seeking the dissolution of the marriage. The other possible reason was if the marriage had irretrievably broken down, something that covered many areas including adultery and desertion. In theory any reason that contributed to the breakdown of a marriage could be the basis for it having “irretrievably broken down”. From this time it was no longer necessary for an undefended divorce case to be heard in the High Court in London; local County Courts could be used. Defended divorces, however, were still held in the High Court.
In the mid 1970’s a Special Procedure was introduced. This made things much simpler in uncontested divorce cases. This has since become the federal constitutional lawyers norm and it is these days very rare for contested divorces to take place; only around one if fifty thousand divorces are now contested.
Over the last one hundred years there has been a big change in divorce in England, from the reasons they can take place to the way they are dealt with.
Andrew Marshall A�

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