Skip to Content
Celebrating 30 Years of Service to Families Across Colorado

The Evolution of Divorce in America: Understanding the Impact of No-Fault Laws


In the 1970s, a significant shift in the American legal landscape transformed how couples could end their marriages. With the widespread adoption of the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act (UDMA), which introduced statutes permitting “no fault” divorces, this period granted individuals greater freedom in dissolving their marriages and ensured a fairer process for both parties involved.

Before the 1970s, obtaining a divorce was often a prohibitively cumbersome process for many, where one party was required to prove the other’s wrongdoing. The UDMA changed that, allowing for the dissolution of marriage without assigning blame. However, this legislative shift has stirred ongoing debates about its societal impacts, particularly concerning the increase in divorce rates.

Critics of “no fault” divorce laws argue that this shift has led to a surge in divorce rates, catalyzed by the comparative simplicity and ease of dissolution. Supporters, however, point out that these laws have provided necessary relief for individuals by relaxing the barrier of entry to petitioning the Court for a divorce. The truth likely lies somewhere in between; while no-fault divorce has made the process far more accessible, attributing this shift solely to the rise in divorce rates overlooks the complexity of marital dynamics and societal influence(s) pertaining to the same.

Colorado’s approach to this issue offers a case in point on how states can balance the interests of individuals with societal concerns pertaining to rising divorce rates. The state of Colorado requires a 91-day waiting period from filing of the initial Petition for Dissolution before a couple can be granted a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. This waiting period reflects the Colorado legislature’s attempt to balance the accessibility of divorce with a period of reflection for the involved parties.

Beyond waiting periods, some states have experimented with the implementation of various measures purposed at curbing divorce rates. Some of these initiatives include incentivization of pre-marital education classes, mandatory intensive counseling post-filing, and the submission of parenting plans for couples with children. Yet, despite these initiatives, the debate on divorce reform continues, with many arguing that these legislative efforts are not yet yielding significant changes.

To many, the core question remains: to what extent does the no-fault divorce reform of the 1970s impact the present divorce rate, and is the divorce rate a matter of national concern? The increase in divorce rates since the enactment of the UDMA is undoubtedly more complex than just the easing of legal barriers. Many factors, including shifts in societal attitudes towards marriage and individual’s socioeconomic circumstances play an undeniable role in increases in divorce rates.

As we move forward, it is crucial to acknowledge that the adoption of no-fault divorce laws has offered a vital lifeline to many individuals who need to exit untenable marriages. However, while no-fault divorce laws have simplified the process of ending a marriage, their impact on the divorce rate and the broader implications for society remain subjects of considerable debate.