The Effective Dates of No-Fault Divorce Laws in the 50 States


  • *This article is a portion of a paper presented at the 1998 annual meetings of the American Political Science Association in Boston, MA, coauthored with James C. Garand. We appreciate Dr. Garand's work on the larger research project from which this article is drawn. Approved for publication by the Director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station as manuscript 01–25–0645.

**School of Human Ecology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803 (


We use prior research and state legislative histories to develop a set of decision rules for determining the dates for adoption of no-fault divorce laws in the 50 states. Social scientists have attempted to gauge the impact of no-fault divorce laws on the stability of the family and on the rate of divorce, but the adoption dates used by these researchers varied widely. Such divergences yield conflicting findings on issues related to the impact of no-fault divorce laws on family outcomes. We examine in detail the varying methods used in prior studies for determining no-fault dates, then suggest a method for resolving the conflicts. Precision in and standardization of the dates of no-fault divorce laws used in this body of research will minimize measurement error and improve confidence in the research.