No-Fault Divorce

October 10, 1973

Report Outline
Liberailization of Laws on Divorce
Changing Attitudes of U.S. Society
Causes and Social Effects of Divorce
Special Focus

Liberailization of Laws on Divorce

Departure From Adversary Court Proceedings

Divorce laws in the United States are beginning to reflect a growing realism about the actual causes of marital breakup. More than a dozen states have adopted “no-fault” divorce legislation under which the court does not so much dissolve a marriage as it gives formal and legal recognition to the fact that a marriage has already died. No-fault divorce replaces the traditional action by which one partner in a marriage sues for divorce, bringing charges of marital misbehavior against the other partner, who becomes the defendant and, if convicted, may bear certain penalties for his offense.

That is the familiar adversary procedure against which critics of divorce laws have railed for many decades. In actual practice, however, even where the law is still in keeping with the adversary rule, the no-fault principle is likely to prevail. This is because nine out of 10 divorce cases are not contested. An uncontested case usually means that the partners have agreed to the divorce and to the terms of the settlement before the case is brought to court. When a case is contested, the point of disagreement is not usually the preservation or dissolution of the marriage, but an ancillary issue of support, property division, or custody of the children.

Widening acceptance of no-fault grounds for divorce is indicative of the changing attitude of the American people toward marriage itself, a diminishing regard for the “till death us do part” mandate of the nuptial rite. It signals a fading away of an ambivalence toward divorce—accepting it yet deploring it—that had found expression in the form of strict laws and easy evasion. A revulsion against the hypocrisy of laws so contrary to custom and so conducive to perjury has also played a part in the rising demand for a more honest legal basis for divorce.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Marriage, Divorce, and Single Parents
Dec. 01, 2017  Future of Marriage
May 07, 2004  Future of Marriage
Jan. 19, 2001  Children and Divorce
Jun. 02, 2000  Fatherhood Movement
May 10, 1996  Marriage and Divorce
Jan. 13, 1995  Child Custody and Support
Jun. 07, 1991  Children and Divorce
Oct. 26, 1990  Child Support: Payments, Progress and Problems
Jul. 06, 1990  Are Americans Still in Love with Marriage?
Feb. 03, 1989  Joint Custody: Is it Good for the Children?
Mar. 12, 1982  Trends in Child Custody and Support
Jun. 03, 1977  The Changing American Family
Sep. 10, 1976  Single-Parent Families
Jan. 25, 1974  Child Support
Oct. 10, 1973  No-Fault Divorce
Oct. 06, 1971  Marriage: Changing Institution
Nov. 27, 1963  Divorce Law Reform
May 24, 1961  Mixed Marriage
Apr. 20, 1959  Rise in Illegitimacy
Feb. 02, 1949  Marriage and Divorce
Legal Professions and Resources
Marriage and Divorce