Divorce Law Reform

November 27, 1963

Report Outline
Prevailing Attitudes Toward Divorce
Objections to Present Divorce Laws
Efforts to Reform Divorce Procedures

Prevailing Attitudes Toward Divorce

Divorce as Handicap in Presidential Politics

Despite the relatively high frequency of divorce among all classes of Americans, popular reaction to divorce of a prominent person indicates that legal dissolution of a marriage still meets a certain amount of disapproval. Shock and dismay are inevitably registered when a highly placed public figure like Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas is divorced. The frequent divorces of motion picture stars have long been deplored as indicative of moral weakness.

Divorce is a recognized handicap in politics. The fact that Adlai Stevenson had been divorced made his nomination for President on the Democratic ticket initially doubtful in 1952. Even though damage to Stevenson's political standing was lessened by the fact that he had not remarried, polls indicated that his divorced status would cost him votes. Divorce and remarriage to a divorcee toppled Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York from the position of front-runner for the 1964 Republican presidential nomination.

The United States has never had a divorced President and Stevenson was the first divorced man to win a presidential nomination. Rockefeller had publicly recognized his new handicap; he noted on Oct. 27 that his divorce and remarriage, among other consequences, had given the radical right “a good excuse to come out aggressively in the open” against him.

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
Marriage and Divorce