Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login

Divorce Trends and Patterns in the Western World: A socio-legal overview

Contents:

Author Info

  • Tony Fahey

    (School of Applied Social Science, University College Dublin)

Registered author(s):

    Abstract

    This paper provides a general overview of trends and patterns in divorce in the present-day western world, focusing especially on the interaction between legal and behavioural aspects of union dissolution. The account is written from a sociological rather than a legal perspective. Its purpose is to provide sociological background and context for an assessment of trends in the legal regulation of couple breakup. It first provides a brief outline of trends in divorce rates in industrialised countries over the past half century, highlighting both the overall upward shift which occurred and the varied timing, pace and extent of that shift between countries. It then turns to a number of aspects of the interaction between law and behaviour that are associated with these trends. The first aspect is the import of the law itself as a possible influence on union stability, particularly the question whether the wave of liberalisation of divorce law that occurred in most western countries between the 1960s and 1980s might have contributed to the rise in marital breakdown that emerged at the same time. A related issue is the role of various forms of de facto and legal separation as alternatives to divorce for those exiting marriage, a question which is relevant to both the methodology of measuring marital breakdown and substantive concerns about the range of possible legal responses to union dissolution. A further topic the paper takes up also bears on what the law on union dissolution entails, as it concerns the de-institutionalisation of marriage represented by the growth of non-marital childbearing and cohabitation and corresponding change in what can be counted as fragile unions, which in turn raises challenges for the state’s role in regulating the process and consequences of union instability. This topic also points to the prominence of social policy as an element in state regulation of family life since welfare entitlements and maintenance arrangements arising from union fragility have regulatory impact and contribute to blurring the boundary between marital and non-marital family forms. The social gradient in union instability – how it varies by the socio-economic standing of couples – is also relevant to this issue since the balance between family law and welfare entitlements as points of reference for separating couples is likely to vary as we go from the top to the bottom of the social scale.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL: http://www.ucd.ie/geary/static/publications/workingpapers/gearywp201320.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2013
    Download Restriction: no

    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Geary Institute, University College Dublin in its series Working Papers with number 201320.

    as in new window
    Length: 16 pages
    Date of creation: 04 Nov 2013
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ucd:wpaper:201320

    Contact details of provider:
    Postal: Arts Annexe, Belfield, Dublin 4
    Phone: +353 1 7164615
    Fax: +353 1 7161108
    Email:
    Web page: http://www.ucd.ie/geary/
    More information through EDIRC

    Related research

    Keywords: Divorce; marital dissolution; families; socio-legal;

    Find related papers by JEL classification:

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    References

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    Citations

    Lists

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucd:wpaper:201320. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Geary Tech).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.