Life before the Family Law Act

Did you know that before the Family Law Act was introduced in 1975, children were the ‘property’ of the husband?

Dad was regarded as the head of the family and he owned all of the property including the children. In order then to apply for divorce it was necessary for either party to rely upon either:

  1. The fact that the parties had been separated for a period of five years (now it’s only 12 months);
  2. Proving that the other party was guilty of one of 17 ‘faults’. These included adultery; refusal to consummate the marriage; drunkenness (for at least two years) and insanity.

In the event that a wife was not able to prove that her husband was guilty of any of the 17 faults and all she was able to rely upon was the fact that they had been separated for a period of five years, meant that for many women there was a real risk that the husband would retain possession of his property, including the children.

You can appreciate that the divorce rate was very low.

In the first year of the Family Law Act’s operation, there were more than 100,000 divorces. It was a floodgate.

The following year, there were some 50,000 divorces and each year following there have been fairly similar numbers although slowly increasing.

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