Historically quite a bit of “fault” was required before a divorce would be issued. The only reasons that the state would allow a marriage to be dissolved by divorce were adultery, cruel and inhumane treatment, desertion, imprisonment, and occasionally, domestic violence. This required, in the minimum, a case made in the courts. Which requires resources to pay for lawyers and the time to wait for a court date. Which means that divorce was more available to people of means. Some states required a “cooling off period” during which time the couple must live apart. The Alabama constitution required both the consent of the court and the consent of two-thirds of the state legislature.
To sue for divorce required as much proof as could be mustered that one spouse had committed adultery, or had been unreasonably cruel. But only one spouse, because if both could be shown to have “sinned” against the other it was a draw and very often no divorce would be granted.
This also led to people perjuring themselves; admitting to affairs that had not taken place, in an effort to facilitate a divorce or prevent one. Couples who wished to divorce often gave mutually agreed upon performances using whichever offense would work in the courts of their state. (New York required adultery, by one party, nothing less would do. California would let you get away with swearing at, beating and other forms of cruelty.)
As a side note this did nothing to make the courts sensitive to actual cases of domestic violence. Because it was such a common gambit to facilitate divorce it was often not actually believed to be true when intervention was actually warranted.
Which brings us to the “no fault” divorce – which is the law of the land today. This does not require the showing of wrong doing by either party. It allows a family court to grant a divorce upon request of one or both spouses.
Of course it is not always that cut and dry. Our system currently rapes both parties financially. The lawyers allow for the finalization of a divorce only when all of the assets that can be used to keep the case going have been liquidated. Before suing for divorce check the possible scenario in the film Divorce Corp: The Price of Divorce. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrBOK8bnrW0
While a marriage is not recognized without the sanction of the state, many of the requirements for divorce have their origins in the church.
So it may come as no surprise that the Bolsheviks first enacted “no fault” divorce, shortly after the Russian Revolution in 1918. Since the state was to care for all citizens, no one would have to rely on a bad marriage for food, lodging, clothes or education. Since divorce had previously been more readily available to the wealthy, now it was also available for the proletariat.
It took the United States a half a century to offer no fault divorce. The state of California, under the paragon of family values Governor Ronald Reagan, was the first state in the US to offer no fault divorce beginning in 1970. New York was the last, in 2010.
Despite the nearly fifty years that no fault divorce has been common in the US, it remains controversial. Soon we’ll see what all of the fuss is about and take a look at the pros and cons.