Divorce: An American Tradition by Glenda RILEY

By Glenda RILEY

In response to Glenda Riley, “the old clash among anti-divorce and pro-divorce factions has avoided the advance of powerful, useful divorce legislation, strategies, and guidelines. this day we nonetheless lack tactics that circulate spouses out of unworkable marriages in a confident style and get them again into the mainstream of lifestyles in a solid, efficient condition.” Her pioneering ancient review bargains proposals for facing an issue that now relates to approximately 1/2 all marriages.

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18 This action may have reflected English policy, established in the Act of 1534, that only the legislatureParliamentcould grant an absolute divorce. The coexistence of judicial and legislative divorces in colonies permitting divorce became common and added another complicating feature to American divorce procedures. The year 1691 was a turning point for the fledgling institution of American divorce. When English authorites united Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay into the single colony of Massachusetts, these two jurisdictions had to combine and clarify their divorce statutes and procedures.

As a result, a woman who committed adultery was punished by a fine, whipping, being forced to wear the letter A for adulteress, being branded on the hand or forehead with the letter A, or being put to death. A man who committed adultery was punished only if his liaison involved a married or a betrothed woman. 16 Because the court was far less willing to grant divorces for male adultery, the few wives who charged their husbands with adultery usually bolstered it with other accusations, especially desertion and cruelty.

Over the years, critics and opponents of divorce have maintained that marriage is a religious sacrament and a lifetime undertaking. In their eyes, the growth of divorce signaled impending breakdown and disintegration of the American family. Opponents of divorce usually believed that marriages should be terminated only for the reason stated in the Bible: adultery. As a result, some supported restrictive divorce statutes stipulating only adultery as a ground for divorce, while others were willing to accept other limited grounds as causes for divorce, such as consanguinity and insanity.

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