Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1910

Abstract

Along with the condemnation of the divorce evil has gone a very general disposition to condemn our divorce laws as being responsible for the evil. The committee on resolutions of the Congress on Uniform Divorce Laws in its report to the Congress at its adjourned session in Philadelphia, November 13, 1906, speaks of the "many evils engendered by the lax and unphilosophic system prevailing in many of the states."3 On this phase of the question also our late president gave his views in his special message to Congress on January 30, 1905, in the following words: "There is a wide-spread conviction that the divorce laws are dangerously lax and indifferently administered in some of the States, resulting in a diminishing regard for the sanctity of the marriage relation."4 It can hardly be doubted that this view obtains very generally throughout the United States, namely that the great increase in the number of divorces is largely due to the fact that the divorce laws in most of the states are less strict than they should be. And it is also a very general belief, as is shown by numerous expressions in editorial discussions of this subject, that the great increase in divorce ,during the last twenty years has been due to an increased laxity in the requirements for divorce. The great publicity given to a few disgraceful divorces obtained in a spectacular manner by prominent people has left the impression that all divorces are of this kind, and that the law permits any dissatisfied spouse to obtain freedom from the marriage yoke by merely expressing a desire to withdraw from partnership. It is believed that this view is accepted even by many lawyers. The statistics on this subject have recently become available for the period from 1887 to 19065 and an examination of the facts thus disclosed does not lend any support to this common misconception of the true state of affairs. After the publication in 1889 of the Report on Marriage and Divorce, 1867-1886, by Carroll D. Wright, then Commissioner of Labor, an examination of the effect of legislation on divorce, as shown by the statistics contained in this Report, was made by Dr. Walter F. Willcox, of Cornell University.6 Dr. Willcox at that time pointed out very clearly that the influence of legislation upon divorces granted during the twenty years from 1867 to 1886 was practically negligible. The present article is the outcome of a desire to make a like examination of the facts disclosed by the later report (covering the succeeding twenty years) and to present to the profession the results of such examination.


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