Depending on whom you ask, divorce is both a modern contrivance and an ancient right. In Muslim and Jewish religious law, a divorce is fairly easy to acquire for the husband. If a wife wants a divorce, it is more difficult. However, in Western Civilization, dominated by Christianity in general and (at least in Europe) Roman Catholicism specifically, divorce was (and remains) forbidden. Since most of our law derives from England, why is divorce as prevalent in the US as it is? Why do nearly half of first marriages end in divorce in America?
According to an article written by Amanda Foreman and published in the latest issue of Smithsonian Magazine, women’s liberation gave rise to the notion of equitable divorce that is more freely available. But to state blankly that the perceived crisis in marriage is the fault of women is to misunderstand the history of divorce.
The blame for divorce being so prevalent has occasionally been laid at the feet of Anne Boleyn, the character who enticed Henry VIII, desperate for a male heir and willing to cast aside Catherine of Aragon to get one, into declaring the Church of England the official state church and making himself head. However, Henry VIII did not divorce Catherine, he merely had his marriage annulled. Indeed, he eventually had his marriage to Anne annulled, after she was convicted of numerous crimes, and before she was beheaded.
The church that Henry founded apparently vehemently opposed divorce as much as the Catholic Church did. It even weakened traditional grounds for annulment, relaxing the consanguinity prohibition so that distant cousins could remain married.
Ending a marriage in England was difficult for men, but near impossible for women. Until a divorce law was passed in 1857, a spouse who wanted a divorce had to get a decree from Parliament. Husbands could receive a divorce after proving their wives had been adulterous. Wives, however, had to prove an adulterous husband in addition to some other factor that made married life unbearable. “Over the years, women learned that brutality, rape, desertion and financial chicanery did not count,” according to Ms. Foreman.
Today, in the US, both men and women are free to marry and divorce as they please. But, Ms. Foreman points out that the situation is often not equal. A single mother will likely suffer more financially from divorce than would a father without custody. Spousal maintenance and child support are available to help ease the burden of divorce, and an experienced family law attorney can make sure you get what you need. If you are getting a divorce, contact Mevorah Law Offices LLC today.
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