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Journal Issue: Children and Divorce Volume 4 Number 1 Spring/Summer 1994

Historical Perspective and Current Trends in the Legal Process of Divorce
Sanford N. Katz

Summary

Over the past 30 years, the legal status of husbands and wives in marriage has undergone major changes with the result that wives are now beginning to have more of an independent legal identity than in the past and, to some extent, more of an equal relationship with their husbands although full equality has not yet been achieved. At the same time, divorce laws and policies have consistently moved toward a view of marriage as an economic partnership and away from the concept of marriage as a status totally regulated by the state and dominated by the husband. This trend has produced significant changes in the statutes, which have, to a certain extent, limited judicial discretion regulating the assignment of marital property and the awarding of alimony upon divorce. These changes have given more consideration to the contribution of wives to the marital enterprise and to the financial needs of children. In addition, recently there has been a movement toward legislating how couples divorce, particularly with regard to their ability—with or without the assistance of counsel—to conclude their divorce with minimal official action. This article explores the trends toward the equality and legal autonomy of husbands and wives in marriage and in the divorce process with particular emphasis on methods of allocating marital property and on new and simplified procedures for divorce.