Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1994

Abstract

In recent years, widespread disillusionment over no-fault divorce has focused debate on the equity of conflicting distributive schemes. The divorce revolution of the 1960's has generally been condemned as a failed liberal reform. In this article, Professor DiFonzo re-examines the origins of the no-fault movement, concluding that the abandonment of fault grounds was conceived as a conservative measure intended to facilitate the reversal of the escalating divorce rate and to replace traditional marital dissolution with therapeutic divorce. Compulsory conciliation was the key tool in the anticipated era of modern divorce, in which newly-empowered family courts merged with the social-science and psychiatric establishment to dramatically expand the state's role in supervising family life.

The reform collapsed at mid-point, achieving only the jettisoning of divorce grounds. Professor DiFonzo argues that while the envisioned super-courts were never funded, an unintended consequence of the reform battle has survived to haunt divorce law for the next generation. The elimination of grounds transformed mutual consent divorce, the operating milieu for most of the twentieth century, into divorce on demand. The transition in divorce law from a mild reinforcement of mutuality to an enshrinement of the right of unilateral marriage demolition has resulted in a significant loss for women.

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