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Why Did Divorce Rates Increase in the 1970s?

Why Did Divorce Rates Increase in the 1970s?

Divorces have changing trends since the 18th century. Every decade and century, there are tremendous changes on the cases of divorce both positively and negatively. However, in the 1970s divorce cases increased tremendously. This was noted by researchers and data collectors who noticed that such cases were on the rise.

In this post, we will focus on the every decade in the 20th and the 21st century concerning the development of divorce.

Divorce cases did not jut begin the other day. Since the 20th century, there are a number of changes in divorce that were influenced by the changing times in the world. Factors which influenced these changes included wars, government laws, education as well as technology. The states were trying to get rid of divorce even with the help of the church by enforcing laws which would not favor divorce. But as times change, divorce became legalized and it was not hard to conduct it.

History of divorce since 1900s

Here is a brief history on how divorce cases moved on since the early 1900’s to 1970s and even after 1970’s. Read on to see what really happened and the state we are at right now concerning divorce

Early 1900s

In the early 1900s, if you wanted a divorce, you had to prove that your spouse had committed adultery, abused you or abandoned you. The church held conferences to enforce laws that would get rid of divorce among couples.
The laws permitted divorce only if one partner was caught in adultery. However, a Women’s conference held in Seneca in 1848 had created a large impact and feminism was gaining a strong ground and women were not willing to stick around in abusive or unhappy marriages.

In 1906, divorce was suggested to remain a federal issue in order to avoid scandals since there were differences in law in different states and countries. Couples form the East Coast would travel to places like Utah and Indiana to get divorced since it was easy to get a divorce in those areas. States like South Carolina just abolished divorce.


By 1915, 1 out of 7 marriages ended up in divorce. As America women embraced more freedom on themselves, more were working outside their homes during world war I. Despite this, most women depended on their husbands to provide for them. Therefore when a woman filed for divorce, she was blamed for tearing her family apart no matter what the reason behind her divorce was.


During this time, the divorce rate increased by 15% compared to the previous decade. Instead of blaming war, women movements, and flappers, more efforts were put in place to eradicate divorce. A controversial set up of trial marriage was started where couples were allowed to live together without getting married.

Other efforts like engaging in Germany’s marriage counselling classes. Despite all this, times had not really changed because a divorced woman is known as an moral fire alarm because she represented danger in the society.


This is the time when the great depression had been experienced. As the rates of unemployment increased, couples were willing to divorce and harden things for themselves.

In 1933, some states put an end to the practice of common law marriage and couples were only deemed married under civil or religious marriage which meant it was harder for them to split up. In the 30’s filing a divorce required you to prove that you were a victim of cruelty, abandonment, or adultery.

This was not an easy task to perform so some couple hired professional witnesses to testify adultery. However, the professional witnesses did not have an eas time since divorce reformers tried to get courts to recognize collusion, or a mutual agreement between partners to terminate their marriage.


In the 1940s, couples rushed to get married before the start of world war II. however, during the peacetime, divorce rates shot to higher rates because the couples were dealing with the realities of post war living and they were realizing that they were not compatible with.

By 1946, the divorce rates had increased to 43%. Still husbands and wives were expected to give evidence for adultery or abandonment before filing for a divorce. However, courts were becoming more open-minded.


Less than 20% of the couples that got married during this time goot divorced. Transformations were going on and they were geared towards changing the way people got divorced. Instead of having traditional courts divorce them, family courts were established which solely focused on matters involving families, divorce and children.

It is during this time that divorce law firms starting cropping up after lawyers seized this opportunity. Groups were formed to educate women on how to evade divorce. Philosophers and writers also published books during this decade with many putting women in charge of saving their marriages. Some even suggested that a wife ought to think about what she can do differently to prevent her husband from drinking, cheating, or being abusive.


This decade, divorce rates increased again by 26%. Some states like Nevada still took having quickie divorces in other states as an easy way of divorcing if a coplu did not want to create elaborate tales on abuse or adultery. Child support would be decided by the individual courts. Two very strong rulings were administered during that time. The first stated that refusing to have sex with your spouse constitutes abandonment.

The second one was that any property purchased or acquired while married belongs to both partners and would have to be shared/divided after divorce. This last one was huge for a wife or husband who feared losing everything after a split.


In California, a no fault divorce bill was signed making it possible for couples to file for divorce without having to prove to the court that their spouse was unfaithful or had abandoned them. Within no time, other states adopted the culture and couples could now split on the basis of irreconcilable differences.

The no fault divorce led to more freedom in marriage in the 70’s. However, this had terrible consequences. About 50% of the couples who married during this time ended up getting divorced and approximately half of the children who were born by couples married during this time watched their parents getting divorced.

Many of those splits were initiated by women: Over 70 percent of women in some states filed for divorce after the introduction of no-fault divorce.


No fault divorce continued ruling the way people viewed divorce. However, some states imposed different rules on marriage and divorce. There are some states where you could obtain a no-fault divorce after being separated for a year while other it was for two years.

Still, there was not enough light for child support. In the 80’s most states and nations came up with guidelines that ruled child support especially in situations where the parent who had the child custody was not financially stable to care for the kids.

The Uniform Marital Property Act was passed in 1983 by some states to put an end to squabbling over property that had been acquired during marriage, but it also made this clear: Any property acquired before marriage belongs solely to that person.


In the 90’s many couples sought mediators who would help them sort their disputes instead of having the court help them battle their differences. Even in this, court would refer most couples to mediation during this time.
It is during this decade when covenant marriages became popular in most states. In this covenant marriage, couples were allowed to sign contracts that required them to seek mediation, counseling, as well as other restrictions before filing a divorce. Essentially, the covenant marriage would make it hard for a couple to get a divorce.


In this decade, the collaborative process kicked off. This is a voluntary process that couples can select prior to filing for a divorce where they agree to sit down with their respective attorneys in four-way meetings and focus on a settlement that is in the family’s best interest.
Couples would agree to be honest and upfront about all information, more couples could actually avoid court. Well, it was also a proper way of making divorce less expensive.


This is where we are at now. In 2015, 6.9 out of every 100 people got a divorce. Divorce is no longer viewed as a weak point for females and the blame for divorce is no longer placed on women. There are other upcoming issues which can lead to divorce like money issues and failure to provide emotional support to your spouse.

The society’s view on divorce has greatly evolved in this decade and more insight is being given as to why divorce is a normal happening. Forums, support groups, conferences and other groups are being set up to educate people on the importance of getting divorced rather than staying in an abusive marriage.

There are also groups which are encouraging people to be keen on who they choose a s a partner so that they do not get divorced at the end. There are also books and blogs giving insights on how to evade divorce and keep a marriage from breaking because the consequences are way too much to bear.

Why did divorce rates increase in the 1970s?

As you have seen in the history of divorce, every decade brought in new developments, setbacks and rules concerning divorce. But in the early decades, there were efforts put in place to completely get rid of divorce and prevent couples from divorcing.

Divorce rates increased tremendously after world war when couples realized that they were sticking together due to the hard times of war. After the war, during the peace era, they realized that they could not live with each other and then filed a divorce. For the states which did not permit divorce, divorce cases were less. However, couples would move to other states and regions to get divorced there and they would find it easy and smooth to divorce from there.

For one to divorce, they had to give proof that their spouse had abandoned them, or committed adultery. This was not an easy task since some people had other reasons for leaving marriages like emotional and money issues. This made it hard to divorce and people tolerated marriages which were abusive and unhappy.

Women movements were established to fight for their rights and empower the governments to set up rules that did not tie women to abusive marriages. Women were encouraged to speak out in a case of an abusive marriage and file for a divorce on the grounds which were given out and then hire professional witnesses to testify against their spouses on court.

Most of the time this ideology worked out but at times the witnesses did not have enough evidence to support their claims and the plan ended up getting messy.

In the 70s, the divorce laws became quite favorable where a no fault divorce bill was signed making it possible for couples to file divorce without having to prove to the court that their spouse was unfaithful or had abandoned them. This gave people an easy ground to get divorced. Divorce rates greatly increased and many kids who had parents marry during that decade, experienced seeing their parents separate.

1970 was a decade where divorce became common and people took it as a norm among families. As the years progressed, people divorced more and the court favored divorced more.

However, as the years progressed, divorce rates started going down. According to statistics, this is attributed to the fact that people got tired of divorce cases and realized that divorce had more serious consequences than staying in the marriage.

Again, with the rise of technology, awareness has been created over the internet concerning consequences of divorce and hacks to apply in order to avoid divorce as well as deal with divorce cases.

Divorce Lawyer Free Consultation

When you need legal help for a divorce, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506 for your free consultation. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506