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After the Reformation, church courts dealt with annulment, separation and divorce. From 1668 to 1857 divorce could only be brought about by a Private Act of Parliament. Up to 1858, a total of 330 divorces had ever taken place in England and Wales.

Couples who did not have the means to pursue separation through the courts, would simply go their separate ways, sometimes living with a new partner without the sanctity of marriage, or marrying bigamously hoping that the law would not catch up with them.

The Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes was established by the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act, where provision was made for divorce on the grounds of adultery by the wife, and various 'offences' by the husband. The wife could file a petition citing cruelty as the grounds for divorce.

Files are generally closed to the public for seventy-five years. The indexes are subject to a thirty year closure rule.

Divorce records from 1858 to 1937 are held at the Public Record Office.
Divorce records from 1938 are held at the Principal Registry of the Family Division (upon application, and for a fee)

Sadly, map reading has yet to be recognised as grounds for divorce, but we can only hope that one day they will see the errors of their ways. All hobbies however, should forever be excluded and this naturally includes genealogy.


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