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The passing of the 1969 Divorce Law Reform Act in 1971 made the only grounds for divorce 'the irretrievable breakdown of marriage' thus guilt or innocence were no longer necessary considerations in divorce proceedings. Almost immediately there was a significant increase in the divorce rate.
The rate increased again during 1984 following after an Act was passed that allowed couples to divorce after the first anniversary of marriage. In 1991, nearly 10% of all UK divorces granted occurred within the first two years of marriage. At 171,000 divorces, the 1991 figure was the highest recorded up to that date. A notable feature of recent divorce petitions is the number that is sought by women. Increasingly it is women who make the first move towards the divorce court.
Using information from the Item and elsewhere, evaluate the assumption that there is a causal relationship between the increase in the divorce rate since the Second World War and changes in the law concerning divorce. (Marks available: 20)
There have been many changes in divorce law and making divorce easier and cheaper to obtain. Giving men and women equal rights to file for one - leading to a rise in divorce rates. This could be seen as a causal relationship.
As seen in the item, the 1960 Divorce Reform Act, created the irretrievable breakdown of marriage which meant that no partner shall take the blame for the termination of the marriage. There was now no "guilty" or "innocent" party. Following this act, there was a significant increase in the divorce rate. This supports the view that a change in divorce law increases the rate of divorce, therefore, there is a causal relationship to be found.
Another valid example from the item supporting that view is that in 1984 there was an act that allowed marriages to be ended after the first anniversary. This allowed unhappy couples to end their marriage as soon as possible, increasing the divorce rate and making divorces easier to get. Again, an example of a causal relationship. Explanations from elsewhere that support the view of a causal relationship between divorce law and divorce rate are the following. In 1949, the Legal aid and Advice act provided financial support to those who could not afford the cost of a divorce, there was an increase in divorce after this because it made it easier and cheaper to obtain for both parties. In 1999 an act was passed, the Family Law Act of 1996. This increased the amount of time a couple had to be together from 12 to 18 months and it also introduced counselling lessons to allow time to "cool-off". This was an attempt to prevent the rising rate of divorces at that time but, these counselling lessons were abandoned as it only encouraged unsure couples to go through with the divorce as it made everything clearer. All these laws and acts increased the divorce rate because it simply made them easier and more affordable for partners to go through with and therefore supporting the view that there is a causal relationship between divorce law and divorce rate.
On the other hand, there is also a lot of evidence that divorce laws are not the only causes for the rising divorce rate. There are changes in society that cause divorces. A very important reason of the rising divorce rate is the changing role of women. In the item, it states that women are most likely to file for a divorce. This may be, as feminists argue because they have higher expectations of marriage and they are less willing to accept the patriarchal nature of the family, the traditional housewife role which comes with many sacrifices, for example: her own carreer oportunites and leisure activities. They are now financially independant as many women are now the main "breadwinners" of the family so if needed, they can afford a divorce. If not, the state provides financial support to women if needed to escape abusive marriages so they are able to live independently and still care for their children. Another social change ist hat there has been growing securalization which means religion has a lesser influence on marriage, this removes a lot of social stigma that accompanies divorce and therefore makes it easier to obtain. Lastly, the life expectancy has increased dramatically for both sexes. this means that marriages now last longer than ever before and it is very hard to keep both parties satisfied in marriage that will possibly last for decades consequently, increasing the divorce rate.
To conclude this evaluation, there seems to be enough evidence to prove that there is a causal relationship between divorce laws and divorce rates but it would be ignorant to count out the all the social changes that happen in society as another reason for the rising divorce rates.