The Effect of No-Fault Divorce Law on the Divorce Rate across the 50 States and Its Relation to Income, Education, and Religiosity

By Nakonezny, Paul A.; Shull, Robert D. et al. | Journal of Marriage and Family, May 1995 | Go to article overview

The Effect of No-Fault Divorce Law on the Divorce Rate across the 50 States and Its Relation to Income, Education, and Religiosity


Nakonezny, Paul A., Shull, Robert D., Rodgers, Joseph Lee, Journal of Marriage and Family


Society uses many methods for social control, including the legal system. In the past, society erected a formidable barrier, fault-based divorce law, to prevent (or at least to hinder) the dissolution of a marriage. However, over time, social reforms have led to fewer restrictions regarding divorce in the United States. Perhaps the most profound social reform has been the switch from fault-based divorce law to no-fault divorce law.

Fault-based divorce law was a restrictive law designed to protect marriage. A divorce was granted under the traditional fault-based law only if one spouse was found at fault or "guilty" (e.g., of adultery or cruelty) and the other spouse was found "innocent" (Weitzman, 1985). Furthermore, the consent of the "innocent" spouse was needed to grant the divorce (Weitzman, 1985). Divorce was denied if both spouses were at fault. In theory, fault law awarded alimony, child support, and property distribution to the "innocent" spouse and the monetary value of the economic settlement was linked, in part, to the income level of the "guilty" spouse. Thus, financial gain resulted from proving fault of the other spouse. However, in practice, fault law treated the two genders differently in divorce in that the husband was generally responsible for alimony and child support and the wife was generally responsible for child custody (Weitzman, 1985). Perhaps the most fundamental drawback of the fault-based system was the requirement that at least one spouse be found guilty and the other spouse be found innocent of marital fault, because this framework of guilt and innocence perpetuated acrimony and conflict in the social-psychological and communication climate of the divorce.

In contrast, no-fault divorce law, now law in all 50 states, is a law designed to make divorce less restrictive. The essence of no-fault divorce law is that it does not attribute fault and thus does not require one of the spouses to be considered "innocent" and the other "guilty" (Weitzman, 1985). Rather, no-fault divorce law recognizes the breakdown of the marriage in that the spouses can no longer function as a married couple. Consent of both spouses is not required; rather, one spouse can decide unilaterally to divorce. No-fault divorce law is gender-neutral in that both spouses are responsible for alimony and child support and both spouses are eligible far child custody. Financial awards in terms of alimony, child support, and property distribution are no longer linked to fault but, rather, to the spouses' current financial needs and resources (Weitzman, 1985). The final but perhaps the most fundamental axiom of the no-fault divorce law is to improve the social-psychological and communication climate of divorce by abolishing the concept of fault (the framework of guilt and innocence) and by tempering the adversarial process surrounding divorce proceedings.

No-fault divorce law might logically lead us to expect an increase in the divorce rates because it has reduced the legal obstacles, the economic costs, and the psychological consequences of divorce. However, previous research (e.g., Allen, 1992; Marvell, 1989; Peters, 1986, 1992; Sepler, 1981; Wright & Stetson, 1978; Zelder, 1993) that has examined the effect of no-fault divorce law on the divorce rate has produced inconclusive results. This is probably due in part to the use of cross-sectional designs (e.g., Marvell, 1989; Peters, 1986, 1992; Wright & Stetson, 1978; Zelder, 1993). Hence, the first focus of the current research was to use longitudinal data to simply test the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis 1: No-fault divorce law results in an increase in the divorce rate.

The reduction of the legal obstacles and the economic costs of divorce that came with no-fault divorce legislation might have had differential effects on families with disparate income levels. That is, we might expect no-fault divorce to be more attractive to low-income families who could not afford divorce under fault-based legislation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Effect of No-Fault Divorce Law on the Divorce Rate across the 50 States and Its Relation to Income, Education, and Religiosity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.