In spite of perceptions to the contrary, the rate of divorce in the United States has actually been on the decline since 1981. However, experts say that this decline is neither an indication that the present-day Americans now disapprove of divorce, nor a suggestion that the institution of marriage in America has become more stable (Crary). When divorce was legalized in the different states of the country, it was originally intended to allow married couples to take their separate ways when living together already proved not only emotionally and psychologically impossible but physically dangerous to the married couple as well.
In other words, divorce was intended to rescue the American individual from the agonies and the tortures of a failed marriage Although divorce laws differ from state to state, there are generally three kinds of divorce: absolute divorce (also called fault divorce); limited divorce (called in some states as a legal separation); and no-fault divorce. An absolute or a fault divorce is a legal termination of a marriage based on reasons allowed by law such as infidelity. This type of divorce restores the parties to their single status.
A limited divorce, or a legal separation, on the other hand, only terminates cohabitation, not the marriage itself. In other words, the parties to a legal separation are not restored to their previous single status. Finally, a no-fault divorce represented a major shift in the divorce law aimed at eliminating the embarrassing motions of proving statutory causes required by an absolute or a fault divorce. A no-fault divorce dissolves a marriage even if only one party attests that the marriage is no longer viable (US DIVORCE LAWS). The rate of divorce in the United States reached its peak sometime in 1981.
Some observers believe that the introduction of the no-fault divorce, which greatly facilitated the process, was responsible for the increase in the incidence of divorce. This was the same conclusion reached by a study conducted in 1989 by a team from Justec Research based in Virginia. Led by sociologist-lawyer Thomas B. Marvell, the study found “very strong evidence” that the introduction of the no-fault divorce was responsible for an increase of between 20-25 % in divorce cases in the states which had no-fault divorce laws (Americans for Divorce Reform).
Regardless of its type, divorce, per se, has been found to devastate the affected children, resulting to permanent adverse effects. For one, such children have been observed to have more problems with their health, their behavior, and their emotions. They were also found to be prone to criminal activities, use prohibited substances, and are believed to be suicidal. Their capacity to learn is impaired, resulting to poor performance in school. In fact, many children of divorce were found to have dropped out of high school, while those who were able to finish high school did not graduate from college.
Moreover, children of divorce oftentimes grow up in poor families, therefore deprived, because divorce results to a tremendous drop in the income of the family. Even spiritual happiness is very seldom achieved by divorce children because married couples who divorce are often not religious (Fagan & Rector). In retrospect, divorce laws were very shortsighted because while they sought to rescue individual Americans from the agonies and the tortures of failed marriages, they completely neglected to take into account the harm that growing up in broken families could do to the hapless children of divorce.
The sad plight of the children of divorce has moved Americans from all walks of life, including some of those who have previously favored divorce, to reconsider the situation. It is feared that if divorce is allowed to continue its wicked ways, American society would ultimately find itself in a state of decay, characterized by the breakdown of the family unit brought about by a totally weakened parent-child relationship. Why?
Because divorced mothers could never be in the position to support their children emotionally, on the one hand, and on the other hand, divorced fathers could not be expected to develop close relationships with their children (Fagan & Rector). Calls have been made for reforms. Politicians and other community leaders are constantly reminded that America’s primary task today is the protection of American children of tomorrow.
As such, they are urged to work together towards changing the attitudes of Americans about divorce and reestablish the value of marriage as the most important foundation of family and society. It has been pointed out that allocating a modest $150 million to “pro-marriage programs” like counseling, pre-marriage seminars, information dissemination, and even marriage education lessons for secondary school students, could go a long way in preserving marriage and prevent the disintegration of the family.
Proponents of this program are reminding government that it is presently spending some $150 billion every year to support families with single parents because of divorce (Fagan & Rector). Likewise worth noting is the finding of some watchers that the decline in the divorce rate since 1981 has not been primarily due to Americans’ repudiation of divorce. It has been the observation of some experts that despite the steady decline in the number of divorces, in general, the American family has remained unstable as before.
For while it is true that the more educated couples have already consistently resisted divorce, the less-educated ones have not. So one might ask: why has there been a decline in divorce rates? The answer is simple: more and more Americans who are living together have chosen not to marry. In fact it has been found that cohabitation rose ten times since the 1960s while the rate of marriage has dipped by almost 30 percent during the past 25 years.
Armed with these figures, therefore, one is safe to assume that the number of divorces has been decreasing not because Americans are already rejecting divorce. Rather, it is caused by their fear of it (Crary). This situation is more alarming because cohabitation, despite the threat of divorce, is more fragile than marriage.
Americans for Divorce Reform. “Why Divorce Rates Increased. ” 12 August 2007. <http://www. divorcereform. org/why. html> Crary, David. “U. S. Divorce Rate Lowest Since 1970. ” ABC News. 10 May 2007. http://www.divorcereform.org/why.html