The History of Divorce in Australia: Are We Better Off Now?
The start of the year brings an increase in divorce enquiries. Divorce is common today given that over half of marriages will end in divorce. What about prior to the enactment of the Family Law Act in 1975?
In this article, we look at the history of divorce in our country. Let’s take a glimpse of how it used to be, and ask ourselves, “Are we better off now?”
Brief History Of Divorce in Australia
Before the Family Law Act of 1975
Prior to the Family Law Act being enacted in 1975, obtaining a divorce was a complicated process.
In order to have a divorce granted, it wasn’t enough to simply be separated. You needed to establish a “ground”. These grounds could include adultery, desertion, cruelty, habitual drunkenness, imprisonment or insanity. You also had to have proof – keep in mind that there were no mobile phones then either. It was a fault-based divorce.
To prove marital fault, a spouse would often hire not only a solicitor but also private investigators and detectives to collect evidence to support their claim. This process was costly, which made it more difficult for the not-so-wealthy to get a divorce.
The only exception was if a couple had been separated for more than five years. In that case, the spouse had grounds to apply for a divorce. Imagine having to wait 5 years to get a divorce?
Another impediment to getting a divorce was that the Matrimonial Causes Act required that a spouse could not apply for divorce unless they had been married for at least three years.
After the Family Law Act of 1975
The Australian Government led by the Australian Prime Minister at the time, Gough Whitlam, enacted the Family Law Act in 1975.
The most significant change introduced was the “no-fault” divorce. A spouse simply had to show that their relationship had irretrievably broken down. A wife or a husband didn’t need to prove that the other spouse was at fault or had done something wrong.
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