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Versions of NAWL's model bill were introduced in a handful of individual states between and , but without success. Instead, new initiatives that were not connected to NAWL's project overtook events. The California State Legislature began its own inquiry into divorce reform in , the same year that Betty Friedan first published her feminist classic, The Feminine Mystique. Together with the California statute that had been enacted in , the no-fault divorce revolution had begun in earnest. First, where does it fit in the narrative of the history of divorce?

The demand for legal reform had its own momentum. By the time of the postwar spike in the divorce rate in , it already was clear that the central problem was that restrictive formal law did not match the much more liberal collusive practice. They had final discretion to decide whether or not the marriage had broken down.

Ironically, in the end, this had the practical effect of promoting unilateral divorce. Courts proved willing to take the word of only one spouse about the breakdown of the marriage and, therefore, to grant a divorce without the mutual consent of the parting couple. What does the lost history reveal about feminism and divorce reform or about women's rights activism in the mid-twentieth century?

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There is no clear-cut answer to the first part of the question. Historically, favoring easier divorce was problematic for the women's movement. The Declaration of Sentiments listed divorce among its indictments of laws that oppressed women, but Elizabeth Cady Stanton failed in her effort to make divorce reform part of the women's rights agenda. Interestingly, the no-fault reformers who followed NAWL approximately 20 years later have conceded that even at the very cusp of the revived mass movement for women's rights in and , they did not have gender equality in mind either.

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For example, a group of attorneys in New York held hearings in on the potential financial consequences of the proposals. After the spread of no-fault statutes, the unexpected economic and social consequences became a feminist flashpoint. In , sociologist Lenore Weitzman published a study of California's decade under no-fault. Although it may be hard to draw a direct line between early no-fault reform and women's equality theory, the lost history of NAWL's project leads to a more nuanced interpretation of women's activism in the s.

Traditional narratives of the history of the women's movement described two waves of heightened activity separated by a lull, including the s. According to this view, the first stage began with the Woman's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in and culminated in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in The second wave came with the revival of a mass movement in the mids. Rather, it encompassed many types of feminists, including women who worked for gender equality in mixed-sex labor and civil rights organizations.

As an example of NAWL's universe of concerns, consider its long-running fight against exclusion of women from jury service, a priority that it shared with most women's organizations across the full range of the spectrum and regardless of their position on the ERA. In the end, NAWL's function as a national professional outlet for beleaguered women attorneys suggests a different kind of link between their commitment to women's rights and their divorce reform project.

Because of pervasive sex discrimination, female attorneys found it difficult to gain a toehold in the profession. For example, in —47, the NAWL Committee on Domestic Relations boasted individual members from nearly three quarters of the states and the District of Columbia, and there was just a slightly smaller section for juvenile law. It is clear why their expertise in family law was particularly important to the professional identity of women lawyers and to the members of NAWL. As has been discussed, NAWL's aspiration to influence the making of divorce law policy was thwarted.

It is a lost chapter well worth recovering. Drachman , Virginia G. After the first issue of the Journal came out, membership in the club began to climb immediately, going from 20 in to 76 in 2 years and then to by See, for example, Joyce , A. See Women Lawyers Journal 1 —12 : passim. Welosky and rule against the exclusion of women from jury service.

Welosky , Mass. Welosky v.

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Commonwealth , U. Commonwealth of Massachusetts U. Berrien, and Madge Lee Guard. Moynahan testifying. See also, Friedman , Lawrence M. Kay also served on the Governor's Commission that drafted the first version of the California law. He read every popular magazine article on divorce published between the end of World War I and the s. He writes about the changing status of women and divorce. But nowhere does he consider the NAWL project.

See Glick , Paul C. By , only The divorce rate had slowed, reaching a low point of 8. Weiss, To Have and to Hold , 4, note The fertility rate was May, Homeward Bound , 13, note The contributors wrote about women's wide-ranging activism in labor unions, peace, civil rights, and civil reforms. They explored an expanded definition of feminism and found that domestic ideology was not as all-encompassing as had been said. They found that rather than constituting an anomalous period or representing a sharp break with pre-war activism, the s served as a bridge to the greater transformations of the s.

Laughlin , Kathleen A. See, for example, Kathleen A. See Rupp and Taylor, Survival in the Doldrums, 8, note The New York club was a good example. Women were excluded from the general bar. The women lawyer's club affiliated itself to the women's movement by joining the General Federation of Women's Clubs in Women who were excluded from the District of Columbia Bar formed a female association in that had close ties to suffrage leaders at the cusp of the success of that movement. Women Lawyers Journal 1 —12 : 1— 8 passim. See, for example, Evans , Sara M.

For examples of Progressive era women's activism, see also ibid. Philip Fannie H. See, for example, Norris , Jean H. O'Hara , Edwin V. See, for example, Johnston-Wood , Harriette M. These separate courts were short lived. See, for example, Riley, Divorce: An American Tradition , 62—67, —11, note 21 discussing the development of divorce havens after and the reactions against them and the work of the New England Divorce Reform League and Samuel W.

O'Neill , William L. See also O'Neill , William L. Phillips, Putting Asunder , , note Riley, Divorce: An American Tradition , , note Elizabeth Cady Stanton decried the control of men over marriage and divorce laws. Alice Park, Secretary of the California Equal Suffrage Association asked the governors to appoint otherwise disfranchised women to the convention in light of the importance to them of the subject. The results of the conference brought mixed responses from feminists: Elizabeth Cady Stanton was glad that it had failed to cut off the escape valve from oppressive marriages, but other feminist figures had hoped for some measure of uniform law.

Others thought that the cause of suffrage should be kept separate and apart from any other issue. Representatives from the disparate states disagreed passionately on how restrictive to make the grounds for divorce.

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The antimigratory proposal provided that if an inhabitant of one state went to another state to obtain a divorce on a ground that was not recognized in his or her own state, the divorce would have no legal effect at home. Phillips, Putting Asunder, —70, note It also would have imposed a minimum 2 year residency requirement in order to file for divorce. Only three states New Jersey, Delaware, and Wisconsin endorsed or adopted the model uniform statute.

The State of Texas ALWAYS Sides Against the Respondent in No Fault Divorce

Haddock v. Haddock, U.

Marital domicile was a principle derived from the common law and its patriarchal model of marital unity, as reflected in Barber v. Barber , 62 U. Barber established that the general rule of the husband's authority to establish the domicile for both parties prevailed unless the husband was guilty of wrongfully abandoning his wife. Haddock , U. Williams v. North Carolina , U. See, for example, Valentine , Josephine S.

Gold , Martha R. For example, Sherrer v. Sherrer , U. Coe , U. Estin, U. Phillips, Putting Asunder, , note See also Phillips, Putting Asunder, , note May, Homeward Bound , 59, note After , the rate of increase slowed, but the divorce rate still climbed, and only stabilized after Note DiFonzo, Beneath the Fault Line , 1—3, note See, for example, DiFonzo , J. Herbie and Stern , Ruth C.

Riley, Divorce: An American Tradition , —44, note Halem, Divorce Reform, supra note 14, at DiFonzo, Beneath the Fault Line , 9, note Some data indicated that in there were only 39 African-American women lawyers in the United States, 4, white women lawyers, and , white male lawyers. Drachman, , note 1. The report estimated there were women lawyers, a number that because of the shortcomings of the survey method was clearly an undercount. See also Blaustein , Albert P. Its conclusion that federal law on marriage and divorce would be unconstitutional led the antidivorce National Congress on Uniform Divorce Laws of to propose the model law on migratory divorce that the uniform commissioners adopted in and later withdrew.

But there also was significant conservative opposition. Numerous women's groups favored national regulation because they hoped it would offer protection to women and children left unsupported in the event of migratory divorces. But conservative religious groups opposed the amendment because they feared that the result would be to liberalize the divorce laws of strict states. White supremacists also opposed the amendment for fear that it would lead to the approval of interracial marriages. With all the interests opposed, the amendment had no chance of enactment by Congress.


NAWL's leadership has escaped the notice of prominent historians such as J. Herbie DiFonzo.

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Alexander , Paul W. Cobble, The Other Women's Movement , 50—51, note See, for example, Alexander , Paul W. The ABA accepted its delegation's report. The autonomous special commission would have included experts from the fields of law, religion, medicine, psychiatry, psychology, sociology, and education. The ABA approved the establishment of the Family Law Section in , subject to the proviso that a sufficient number of ABA members expressed an interest in the section.

Wood , N. Based on these discussions, the proposed principles were sent to NAWL members and to professors of law. Petersburg Times , October 26, , 12B. She wrote a book on women and jury service and in later years headed the Illinois Committee on the ERA. She was the author of the Illinois uniform divorce bill. Cirese and J. Helen Slough. The bill was approved at the NAWL convention.

The somewhat confusing result of this ruling was that each state's conclusion prevailed within its own boundaries. In later rulings, the Court distinguished jurisdiction to divide property from domicile for divorce, requiring personal jurisdiction over both parties for the former. Sherrer , 34 U. In addition, Section 24 was designed to promote voluntary recognition of decrees by sister states. Enacting states undertook to give full faith and credit to the decrees of sister states. See Foster , Henry H.

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Otherwise, the Bill represents a restatement and codification of the best case law and statutory law to be found throughout the forty-eight states. In this effort, the Court, where feasible, shall require the use of its conciliation services, and in its discretion the social agencies available to the Court , before a hearing may be set on the petition. The court shall makes its conciliation services available upon the request of the parties , or either of them, and may in its discretion, require the use of its conciliation services before a hearing is set on the petition.

DiFonzo, Beneath the Fault Line , , note Proponents of this extreme view of therapeutic divorce did not favor either living separate and apart or incompatibility as grounds for divorce. DiFonzo, Beneath the Fault Line, , note The original proposal for California's no-fault reform of included a unified family court as a counterbalance to the new liberal marital breakdown standard for divorce.

The provision was dropped in the legislative process. Jacob, Silent Revolution, 59, note If, on the other hand, the wife was at fault, by having an affair, then court would punish her by reducing her alimony payment or by giving her less marital property than she would have received otherwise. The wife who expects a judge to brand her adulterous husband with a scarlet letter will be disappointed, particularly since the financial and emotional costs to herself will undoubtedly be much higher than a less punitive escape from a troubled marriage.

Even if fault is alleged, most states and courts will elect not tie the fault to either the property distribution or spousal support, and indeed, some states even have statutes forbidding any linking of the fault to the property distribution or spousal support. In the 17 no-fault states, fault is completely irrelevant to all aspects of a divorce. And some states are mixed: fault is not grounds for a divorce, but conduct during the marriage -- including bad behavior -- can be considered in setting support and dividing marital property. Consideration means what a judge says it means, and most courts in these jurisdictions place little weight on fault for anything.

Prior to the so-called liberalization of divorce, fault was the only way to end a marriage in many jurisdictions. Proving could turn on the corroborating testimony of witnesses; defending could mean claims that the plaintiff or petitioner procured the adultery, or condoned it, or colluded with the defendant or respondent in the commission of the alleged acts that substantiated the fault. For sure, the old divorce laws were far more restrictive, "demanding that the parties spend a good deal of their legal efforts toward proving the fault grounds.

However, the proof of fault in the defendant or respondent "was used as a basis to mete out" punishment, "not only the amount of financial support awarded the aggrieved spouse, but also in deciding the quantum of property the court distributed between the parties. Information Provided by: Divorce Source, Inc. Useful Online Tools Divorce Online - With this online software you will complete and instantly print your divorce forms and step-by-step filing procedures to file your own divorce in a timely, professional, and hassle free fashion.

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Enter Your Zip Code:. X Close Categories. Encyclopedia Checklists Tools Downloads Bookstore. Start Your Divorce. Fault versus No-fault Grounds. Key Points No-fault grounds for divorce exist in every state. Both No-fault and fault grounds only exist in only a few. When filing using a fault ground there is a burden of proof responsibility on the filing spouse to show the court that the fault actually took place or exists.

No-fault grounds are the most popular as courts rarely make decisions based on favoring one spouse versus the other on marital fault. In the old days someone who wanted out of a marriage had to prove the other spouse is at fault for causing the marriage to fail. Thus, the idea of fault implied a moral responsibility for failure. Or, even when both of them were equally responsible and each wanted to escape a failed marriage, someone had to "take the fall," that is, be at fault.

Marital unhappiness "irretrievable breakdown" and "irreconcilable differences" did not count.