Evaluation of Relationship Between Legal Changes and Divorce Rate

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Legal changes are changes in the laws surrounding divorce. Changes in these laws have made divorces easier and cheaper to get and given men and women equal rights in filing for one – leading to a rise in divorce rates. However, there are many other factors that also contribute to a rise in divorce rates, for example secularisation and feminism – changes in society and its attitudes that form its views on different matters, including divorce. All of these factors play a role in the rate of divorce in the contemporary UK, but as to which is the main reason for the increase in divorce over the past forty years will be discussed in this essay. On the one hand, it can be said that legal changes are the main reason for the increase in divorce over the last forty years due to acts brought into force, such as the Matrimonial Proceedings Act 1984. This act allowed couples to divorce at least one year after marriage, instead of three years, which is what the law enforced before. This meant that people were divorcing sooner and therefore less issues within marriages were being resolved and more marriages were being ended. This is because before, when people had to wait three years before they could divorce, they would often work on the issues in those years, and sometimes move past them and fix the marriage, whereas after the act came into force they could possibly divorce as soon as an issue arose rather than having to deal with it. This is highlighted by the numbers of divorces over the past forty years – in 1974, ten years before the Matrimonial Proceedings Act, there were 113,500 divorces in England and Wales. In 1984 there were 144,500 divorces, followed by 118,140 divorces in 2012, and although a decrease since 1984, the rate of divorce is still higher than it was thirty eight years earlier, in 1974. Another act that affected the rate of divorce over the past forty
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