Sunday, December 1, 2019

Divorce as a repugnant transaction

A recent obituary reminds me that divorce used to be a repugnant transaction, to which there were barriers even when both partners in a marriage were eager to end it on agreed upon terms.  It was a repugnant transaction because of the way we regard marriage as a protected transaction.

Jerome Wilson, Key in Revamping New York Divorce Law, Dies at 88
As a legislator in 1966, he led a commission that pushed to broaden the legal grounds for divorce. New York had been the last state to recognize only adultery.

"Jerome L. Wilson, a former Democratic state senator from Manhattan who helped liberalize a rigorous 18th-century law that had left New York as the sole state that required a spouse to prove adultery as the only legal ground for divorce, died on Friday
"The amended act, which took effect on Sept. 1, 1967, added four other grounds for divorce: cruel treatment, abandonment for two years, the sentencing of a spouse to prison for five years or more and a couple’s living voluntarily apart for at least two years.
"In the second year after the law went into effect, the number of divorces granted in New York ballooned to 18,000 in all five categories, compared with 4,000 granted only for adultery during the last year that the old law was in effect.

"Supporters of the changes said the new law also reduced instances of perjury (because so many estranged spouses had to lie about allegations of adultery) and end runs by wealthier couples who could afford to fly to Mexico or Nevada and remain there for two weeks to qualify for a divorce.
"Mr. Wilson’s first marriage, in 1957 to Frances Roberts, ended in divorce."

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