Friday, March 14, 2008

Divorce in England and Wales

UK Parliament - Archives - AAM7: "Divorce in England

Divorce by legal process only became possible after the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857. Before that date people could get a legal separation called a mensa et thoro from an ecclesiastical court, and damages for adultery could be obtained from a civil court - this was called a suit for criminal conversation. However the only way to get a full divorce which allowed re-marriage was to obtain an Act of Parliament by proving adultery or life-threatening cruelty. Parliamentary proceedings were expensive and this could only be undertaken by the rich.

Divorce records

The Parliamentary Archives holds the records of divorces obtained by Act of Parliament between 1670 and 1857, including the initial petitions to the House of Lords, Acts, Bills, amendments and copies of earlier proceedings in the ecclesiastical courts. Divorce Bills were usually considered by a committee of the whole House of Lords, and evidence was given there by witnesses. The evidence can give large amounts of personal information about the people involved, as maids, butlers and coachmen were called alongside family members to testify about the state of the marriage."

The Addison/Campbell Divorce Act, 1801

This is a significant Act as it was the first to be obtained by a woman. Jane Campbell managed to divorce her husband Edward Addison on the grounds of adultery with her sister. She also managed to obtain custody of their children.

Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 - Google Search

Society of Australian Genealogists - Basics on Divorce:

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 led to the creation on 1 January 1858 of a Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes. Prior to this there were five main methods by which partners could be separated in unsatisfactory marriages:

* Private Separation
* Desertion and Elopement
* Wife sale
* Judicial separation by ecclesiastical courts
* Full divorce by Act of Parliament

The National Archives has an Information Leaflet #43 Divorce Records before 1858 which provides full descriptions of each of these methods and the relevant records held.

The Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes took over the jurisdiction for matrimonial affairs from the church courts in 1858 and was empowered to deal with child custody, maintenance and alimony.

Information leaflet #44 Divorce Records after 1858 describes divorce legislation 1857-1939, divorce records 1858-1943, divorce records after 1943 and divorce in Ireland.

see also
Index to divorces in the 'Times', London, 1788-1910 (as listed in Palmer's Indexes to the 'Times') on microfiche. It contains the surname of the parties; the surname of any co-respondents; the quarter; year and Palmer's reference to the Times.

Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes - Google Search

The National Archives of the United Kingdom

Search | Results: " for Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes"


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