A Brief History of Legal Divorce


While divorce may seem a legal matter that has come about within the last century, it has a history dating back to the 1500s. Henry VIII was the first to bring about a highly publicized divorce. His wife Catherine failed to produce a male heir to inherit the throne. He had also fallen in love with Anne Boleyn. As such, he tried to force the pope to annul his marriage. When the pope declined, Henry declared himself the head of a new church called the Church of England. With it, he began approving annulments and divorces, the first being his own.

Afterwards, however, divorce was not a term heard very often. Most churches eventually went back to detesting divorce and renouncing it completely. It wasn't until the mid-1800s that divorce would become more prominent and acceptable among society.

In 1857, the Matrimonial Causes Act was passed, allowing citizens to divorce. Before then, it was expensive and only men could file. This new law allowed women to file for divorce, but only if their husbands had been unfaithful. They had to prove infidelity, along with any other faults, before a divorce would be granted.

1937 came with a law change. It increased the allowed reasons for divorce. Abuse, cruelty, drunkenness, and desertion were all added to the list. Women, however, still needed to prove each and every accusation before a divorce would be given.

Finally, in 1969, the Divorce Reform Act took place. This stated that couples who had been separated for 2 years could file for a divorce. Also, it was no longer necessary to prove the faults of one another. From this moment, the precedent was set and divorce rates rose. Whether because of abuse or simply because of irreconcilable differences, divorce is much easier and socially acceptable than in centuries past.

Leave a Reply