Law Office of Kevin L. Beard, P.A.

Divorce wasn't easy in Colonial times, but was certainly possible

These days, divorce is a common occurrence in Maryland -- so common that most people know quite a few couples who have been through a divorce. Most people tend to think that divorce is more of a modern phenomenon than something people did in the past. Divorces were indeed rarer in the past, but they were not unheard of -- even in Colonial times.

In fact, the Puritan colonies of New England allowed for divorce, and they tended to see marriage as a civil contract. The Massachusetts Bay Colony legalized divorce in 1629 and the first divorce happened in the United States in 1638. Some of the grounds for divorce were bigamy, desertion, abuse and adultery. Nevertheless, it was easier for a man to get approval for a divorce than a woman.

This is not to say that divorces were easy back then. They had to be approved by the colony or state's governor, or by the legislature. In our state of Maryland, the General Assembly approved of divorces. Also, divorces were not absolute. It was more of a separation, as divorcees could not remarry while the other spouse was still alive.

Maryland was originally a Catholic colony. As of the early 1800s, Maryland granted an average of 30 divorces a year. Slowly, though, divorces became more common and by 1842, deciding divorce petitions became the responsibility of the courts, and divorces have been handed the judiciary every since.

Fortunately, divorce is a lot easier now than it was in the past. If you want to end your marriage, all you have to do is contact a Maryland divorce lawyer to help you with the process, which can be navigated quickly and cost-effectively.

Source: Cecil Whig, "Colonial divorce was not an unheard-of act," Carol Donache, April 22, 2017

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