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Did Unilateral Divorce Laws Raise Divorce Rates in Western Europe?


  • This article was edited by Jay Teachman.

Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES), D-68131 Mannheim, Germany (


The increase in European divorce rates over the past decades was accompanied by several changes in divorce laws. Yet for European countries, research on the effects of divorce law on the divorce rate is scarce. Most of the existing studies are based on data from North America and provide numerous, but inconsistent, results. We use fixed-effects regression models to examine the impact of the introduction of unilateral divorce on the divorce rate in Western European countries. We find that de facto unilateral divorce practices led to a sustainable increase in the divorce rate, whereas legal rights to unilaterally divorce had no long-run effects.