Divorce Guide

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History of divorce in Australia


The history of divorce in Australia is actually very interesting. The Australian divorce legislation is always studied to and compared to the English act of divorce, 1857. The Australian laws of divorce are based on this act. You will have to learn about the introduction of divorce in Australia and the historic details regarding it.

Divorce before introduction of divorce laws in Australia

It is human nature to desire to break the bonds of matrimony and go in for change in partner. This is applicable to both the genders. Many men in Australia wandered in search of mines of minerals and gold. Many men deserted their wives and sought new livelihood. The wives were left to tend for themselves and make their own arrangements. The crude lifestyle of Australians added to the stress in the family. Beating wives became very common and many wives even complained of assault and murder threats. There were no divorce laws and the popular method was bigamy. This was done on the basis of presumed death of the spouse and separation of seven years.

Introduction of Divorce in Australia

There were a number of families that were either deserted or broken. Later in the report of the Royal Commission in 1853 the problem of illegitimacy was given due consideration. There was urgent need for some legislation to save the social structure. There was a conflict of interests about the traditional wisdom to save marriages and the urgent need to consider the social requirement for a change. This resulted in the extreme decision of allowing for divorce by the commission. The divorce was strictly on the basis of adultery only. Each colony in Australia was left to deal with the details till they followed the imperial mode. When the divorce and Matrimonial Act of 1857 was passed in England, it was passed on to the British colonies to have similar legislation. Divorce laws were introduced in South Australia and Tasmania in 1860. It was introduced in Victoria in the year 1861, WA 1863, Queensland 1864 and NSW 1873. Once the divorce laws were introduced, there was a need to make some changes due to the difference in social conditions. There were a number of differences like the migratory culture, the traditional background; lack of proper settlement, etc. All this demanded that the divorce laws introduced in Australia were according to the local needs. The reforms in the divorce laws started since the end of the 19th century. The uniformity in the reforms in the different states of Australia was achieved in 1959. This was possible only when the marriage and divorce subjects were taken over by Commonwealth in that year.

Divorce laws in Australia in the 20th century

The divorce laws in Australia have undergone a lot of change since their introduction almost a century and a half ago. The changes in divorce laws indicate the change in the relationship between the man and women in Australia. The present system of family laws was introduced in the year 1975. It was limited to marriage and divorce. All the fault grounds were abolished by the family law Act of 1975. It was replaced by the irretrievable breakdown of marriage. This Act is a very important reform and is widely discussed in terms of women equality.

History of divorce in Australia is an evolving subject. It is a never-ending process and will change according to the needs of the people. There are many more milestones yet to be achieved, which only the future will unfold.


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