Divorce, the process by which a marriage is ended or dissolved, has almost become commonplace in many countries today with thousands of people filing divorce papers each year. Throughout the twentieth-century, divorce rates skyrocketed in many countries including the United States, Canada, members of the European Union and even Japan, which had a low divorce history until recent years. The increase in the divorce rate has led to a greater acceptance of single-parent families and today many people are deciding to raise children on their own. For women, there has also been a decrease in the stigma attached to unwed mothers and more and more women are choosing to have and raise children outside of marriage.
Divorce history is complex and varies from country to country. In Scotland, for example, divorce was not recognized prior to 1560. Adultery and desertion became grounds for divorce with the coming of the Reformation. The causes of divorce were not altered a great deal until 1938 when cruelty and no-fault were introduced as grounds for a divorce. It was not until an Act was passed in the mid-1970s that reinforced the idea of irreconcilable differences while also needed the cause to fall into one of five specific categories (adultery, desertion, two years of separation with consent, five years of separation and unreasonable behavior). In England, it was much easier for men to be granted a divorce than their wives. Whereas men only had to prove a wife's adultery when submitting divorce papers, a wife had to prove cruelty or dissertation as well as adultery. It was not until 1923 that women were granted the same grounds as men when it came to filing divorce papers.
Different cultures and religions have different attitudes towards divorce. Divorce is not condoned by the Catholic Church. Divorce is allowed under Islam, but only a husband can claim a no-fault divorce and because unlike Christianity, Islam considers marriage a legal contract, the filing of divorce papers is the legal dissolution of the marriage contract. Judaism has accepted "no-fault" divorces for thousands of years. Judaism accepts that it better for a couple to end their union rather than live in a state of conflict and strife.
There are many reasons that lead to a divorce. These include extra-marital affairs, emotional or physical abuse, abandonment and addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling or work.
A divorce is difficult for all parties involved and for many the phrase "good divorce" is an oxymoron. Though most people would prefer an amicable settlement, divorce papers and procedures make it almost impossible for anyone to have a good divorce. There are always financial and childcare issues to consider because a divorce essentially splits one household into two. Traditionally custody lay with women and men suffered the most financially because of alimony and child support, but those roles are changing now with more men being awarded custody.
There are also serious psychological issues around the divorce issue, including problems with self-esteem, depression and purpose. The emotional and psychological impact on children must also be taken into consideration.