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Divorce is the legal termination of marriage. It is this definition of which many people all over the world understand divorce. Divorce is, however, an intricate process through which two formerly married people can reorganize their legal duties, and let off their responsibility in marriage. In most countries, divorce involves sorting out issues like parenting time and custody of children, a division of debt, distribution of property and even payment of spousal support. In some countries, the entire concept of dissolution of marriage is a religious affair. In fact, complete intolerance for divorce is a prevalent practice in ecclesiastical states like the Vatican.

The American society has significantly changed its perception of divorce and issues surrounding the termination of marriage. It is not until the late twentieth century that divorce became was considered completely rational and called for in the American society. The evolution of the society in the country have come to accept , for a variety of reasons, that divorce can be a positive way of ending an unhappy or even abusive union. In the turn of the 21st Century, the Millennials have grown in a society where divorce is not only possible but accounts for how 50% of marriages in the country end. To understand divorce, examining its history, causes and impact can make for better methods of approaching divorce and perhaps even mitigate the impact it may have on any one relationship.

History of Divorce.

While the annulment of marriage has been a practice that societies have had for centuries, divorce was not a popular term until the 16th Century. The case of Henry VIII versus Pope Clement VII was one that defined divorce. In 1527, Henry wanted to get his marriage annulled by the Pope (Foreman, 2017). His reason for this was that his wife, Catharine of Aragon, did not provide him with a male son. He also had a younger and prettier girlfriend, (Anne Boyle), who he wanted to wed shortly after. When his plea was denied, he broke off and set out to start a new church, The Church of England (Foreman, 2017).

His decision was one that affected thousands of churches, schools, hospitals and convents that were run by the Catholic Church. The controversial marriage he had to Anne, however, ended in her death. Convicted of adultery, treason, and incest, she was beheaded. This case is one of the most famous instances of divorce before the seventeenth century in Europe. The Church of England went out and completely refused to endorse divorce for any reason (Foreman, 2017). After the Protestant Reformation, Protestant England began accepting that there may be reasons to have a divorce. At the time, the Church of England did not annul any marital engagements. For a person to get divorced, they had to turn to the law. Both houses of parliament were required to vote for a law for the annulment of marriage. Only a few people had the capacity to use such means, and therefore only a few cases were heard and passed (Foreman, 2017).

In 1857, the divorce law was enacted in England. At the time, the number of divorces that were acknowledged stood at 324. Of these cases, only four were brought up by women. It is important to note, that before divorce law was enacted, there were no women who could argue their case to get their marriage annulled. It was unheard of for a woman to demand the annulment of her marital union to any man (Foreman, 2017). Rape, physical abuse, and even financial chicanery were not reasons that could warrant rape. Men only had to prove adultery or some other circumstance of the same aggravating degree. In 1801, Mrs. Addison was able to argue out the case of her husband’s adultery and incest. This was the first instance of divorce where a woman was awarded annulment from her husband (Foreman, 2017).



Before this, women had a hard time getting their marriage divorced. For most of the time, women who attempted to divorce their husbands often led to situations where one party died. Instances like the inability of a man to consummate the marriage were considered (Foreman, 2017). In the case of Willmott Burry and her husband was among the very first cases where women could file for divorce. The impotence of her husband was no proved. However, midwives proved the virginity of Wilmott Bury and warranted the state of their union (Foreman, 2017).

Upon remarriage, John Burry, (Wilmott’s Husband) fathered a son, bringing and contradicting assessment of the previous assumption. When it came time for Burry’s estate to be inherited by his son, the family challenged the legitimacy of his son given the legitimacy of the annulment was undermined (Foreman, 2017). The first instance that led to the annulment was not true and therefore discredited his divorce from Wilmott. This case furthered complicated the issues that surrounded divorce and more so for women (Foreman, 2017).

The divorce law however made sure that ordinary people were allowed to file for divorce. However, women divorcing their husband by adultery also had to prove other mistakes like rape, brutal physical abuse, and incest (Foreman, 2017). At the beginning of the twentieth century, divorce caught on across the Atlantic. While women were required to present significantly more evidence to get their marriages annulled, it did not call for the equal distribution of debt or financial assets. Divorce still did not favor the woman (Foreman, 2017).

It was not until the last half of the 20th Century that divorce was something that could be warranted by drunkenness, insanity, and discretion. Still, the woman was awarded a share of the assets that they owned during the marriage. In 1996 Martin White and Pamela White filed for divorce (Foreman, 2017). Both parties had been running their farm for the entire length of their 33-year marriage. Their work had amounted to $4.5 million. She was able to argue out a case that saw her get $800, 00. Upon appeal to the House of Lords, she was awarded a total of $1.5 million. This was a landmark case for divorce as it warranted the fair distribution of assets (Foreman, 2017).

Causes of Divorce

The 21st century has seen much social and political reform. In the United States of America, Divorce accounts for 50% of how marriages end. It is, therefore, important to look at some of the common causes of divorce (Amato, & Previti, 2003). Significant research has been given to a lot of the different issues that lead people to file for divorce. The 21st Century has come to see a lot of social change including widespread feminism, same-sex marriage and a diverse set of family units (Amato, & Previti, 2003).

Some of the causes of divorce, include, growing apart. The 21st Century has been built around busy lifestyle and dynamic settings in which people live. Working odd hours and even constantly traveling are among some of the issues that complicate the domestication habitation and the traditional family (Hawkins, Willoughby, & Doherty, 2012). For these reasons a majority of couples grow apart and develop communication inefficiencies. This state often warranted the realignment of one’s entire life and therefore a valid reason for people to get a divorce (Hawkins, Willoughby, & Doherty, 2012).

Another issue has was cited as a pivotal influence in evoking divorce was financial management. Families are irreproachably financially bound. The manner in which either spouse handles money is, therefore, an important consideration for a lot of the people seeking a divorce. Marriage was an important commitment that demanded to safeguard. It, therefore, was a considerable reason for people to get a divorce because of the mismanagement of funds by either spouse (Amato, & Previti, 2003).

Other causes of divorce include personal problems with the spouse, sexual problems, and even differences in tastes and preferences. It is important to note that as time has gone by, divorce has no longer been something that demands the severe reasons to warrant their decision. In fact, there are less physically or even emotionally detrimental causes for filing divorce (Hawkins, Willoughby, & Doherty, 2012) (Hawkins, Willoughby, & Doherty, 2012). A majority of people feel that issues like conflict of raising one’s decision and different and spousal leisure activities count as a valid basis for the dissolution of marriage (Hawkins, Willoughby, & Doherty, 2012). Issues like religious differences also come in but often a problem for very few people. This might be a result of the declining power of the church in deciding the course for certain issues. In-law problems and division of household responsibilities also reasons that other people feel warrant them to file for divorce (Hawkins, Willoughby, & Doherty, 2012).

It is important to note that as the world has moved towards the attainment of scientific and academic knowledge, logic and rational have come to play a significant role in determining the social and legal manner in which divorce is perceived (Hawkins, Willoughby, & Doherty, 2012). For this reason, increased research and legal amendment of law continue to limit the reasons that can warrant one to file for a divorce. In a survey, 9% of a sample group said they could file for divorce is their significant other’s friend was a bother to them (Hawkins, Willoughby, & Doherty, 2012).

The rate of divorce warrants and examination into the effect that it has on an individual, family, and society. The continued endorsement of these issues undermines the value of marriage and the traditional family unit. It is, therefore, important that the effect it has on these factors be examined. It will give deeper insight on the implications of divorce and perhaps give some credibility or warrant more stringent laws for divorce (Hawkins, Willoughby, & Doherty, 2012).

Impact of Divorce


Divorce affects men and women differently. Women tend to adjust better than men after divorce. Even when in marriage, women rely on support from outside their marriage. For this reason, they often find that they receive social support as they begin their post-divorce life on a social front. Women also notice more problems when in marriage (O’Connell, 1997). It is one of the reasons more women file for divorce than men do. After a divorce, they, therefore, appreciate the end of the issues they were dissatisfied with. Women also experience more esteem boost than men due to a feeling of liberation and involvement of new people in their lives (O’Connell, 1997). They, however, face social stigma from other women in marriage and even at work for taking active roles in their careers.

Men are however affected differently compared to women. For one, they are more likely to experience difficulty adjusting to the emotional difference before and after their marriage. They experience a loss of social connection and intimacy (O’Connell, 1997). Their finances are reduced and often have to deal with their parental role, unlike during their marriage where it was part of their lives. Men tend to remarry more quickly due to the emotional, social and intimacy needs they need to be acknowledged. Single fathers who do not live with their children are frowned upon in society while those who have custody of their children are considered responsible (O’Connell, 1997).

Family Members

The relationships in a family considerably change during and after a divorce. The children may feel abandoned or even been the cause of the divorce. Spouses on the other hands are often overwhelmed with single life and managing their new lives. For the children to have time with both parents, they may have to commute both parents’ homes. Parental supervision may increase as one or both parents seek to set up financial stability so that they may afford to lead their lives as single people and parents (O’Connell, 1997).

A lot of the family and lifestyle dynamics change. 90% of mothers tends to get custody of their children. The fathers, therefore, have to look for means to pay for their child support and also visit their children to offer their parenting input in their children. Still, differences in the way they distribute assets and debt, post-divorce families (O’Connell, 1997). Approximately 65% of a divorced mother living with their children do not get any child support from their former spouses. Issues like income tax also affect single mothers with their children; they are required to pay a total of $12200 tax income on average (O’Connell, 1997).


In addition to this, the entire social structure, for many parts of the world favor the financial dominance of men over that of women post-divorce. For instance, issues like marginalization in the job market and division of assets. It is estimated that 60% of the people living in the poverty lane are women and children, a testament to the impact of this disparity. Women, however, tend to adjust better post-divorce (O’Connell, 1997).

The effect that divorce has had on the society is the continued shunning of marriage by the younger generation. This movement has caused a lot of change in the living arrangement for a lot of youth. In addition to this, middle-aged persons now have more instances of having single parent homes due to divorce. The overall respect and seriousness with which marriage was taken before the enactment of the divorce law have significantly reduced over the last few decades. Still, as society matures and evolves, the marriage institution may fade away altogether (O’Connell, 1997).


It is important that couples work to mitigate divorce. Taking steps to ensure that the commitment to another person and the institution of marriage is respected is an innate responsibility. However, there are instances where divorce is the most amicable resource for people in bad and unhappy relationships (Rhoades, Stanley, Markman, & Allen, 2015). Divorce is a dynamic and increasingly prevalent phenomenon in society. Social evolution and the even changing social-cultural idiosyncrasies that influence the reason for people to get divorced cannot be mitigated. Looking for methods to improve the outcome of divorces, should couple come inevitably to such a conclusion is important (Rhoades, Stanley, Markman, & Allen, 2015).

It is important to work towards improving the induction of both men and women into society and single parent life after divorce. Initiatives to educate women on how to get financially stable and improve the distribution of both assets and debt after marriage. More advocacy for the proper payment of both child and spousal support can offer better chances for individuals to lead better lives after divorce.  Working on proper counseling can also have a valuable impact on the growth and development of children from families that have seen divorce (Rhoades, Stanley, Markman, & Allen, 2015).





Amato, P., & Previti, D. (2003). People’s Reasons for Divorcing: Gender, Social Class, the Life Course, and Adjustment. Journal of Family Issues24(5), 602-626.×03254507

Foreman, F. (2017). The Heartbreaking History of DivorceSmithsonian. Retrieved 2 April 2017, from

Hawkins, A., Willoughby, B., & Doherty, W. (2012). Reasons for Divorce and Openness to Marital Reconciliation. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage53(6), 453-463.

O’Connelle, K. (1997). Psychological and Emotional Aspects of Divorce. Retrieved 2 April 2017, from

Rhoades, G., Stanley, S., Markman, H., & Allen, E. (2015). Can marriage education mitigate the risks associated with premarital cohabitation? Journal of Family Psychology29(3), 500-506.


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