How Hard was Divorce in California in the 1960s?

California was the first state to pass a “No Fault” law for divorce. This meant that a person filing for divorce no longer had to prove that their spouse was cheating on them or was acting in a cruel and inhumane way. For the first time a divorce was possible for “irreconcilable differences.”

Here is a true story of one woman’s plight in 1966. The names have been changed to protect their identity.

Leslie and Bill got married in 1956. Leslie was barely 16. This was a pretty common occurrence int eh 1950s and was not looked down upon by the general public. A girl was still brought up to believe that her role in life was to be a homemaker and a mom.

Leslie had her first child 9 months later. Four children followed over the next few years. At a tender young age of 23, Leslie found herself to be a mother of 5 children, all under the age of 7. By this time Bill had taken up drinking. He would go to work each morning and head for the bars at the end of the day. He used at least half of his paycheck to drink and go out with other women. Bill would come home drunk, demand sex from Leslie or else beat her.

Leslie lived in constant fear. She was physically and mentally beaten down. She had no family to turn to and no skills in which to find a job. During the 60s most jobs that women held required typing and/or shorthand.

There was a period of time that Leslie had enough. She through Bill out of the house and filed for divorce. She went to the local welfare office and was told that she did not qualify for help, because she was legally married and Bill made too much money. She found a church that gave her food and helped with rent and utilities in exchange for cleaning the church and doing some office work such as filing and answering phones.

Then came the court date and a BIG SHOCKER!

Bill went to court and told the judge that he loved Leslie and wanted a second chance. He told the judge that he was no longer drinking and had no problem giving Leslie his entire check. Bill said that the biggest challenge he was facing is that he could not afford to do this and find a place for him to live as well.

The judge ordered that Bill be allowed to live in Leslie’s house. He was to sleep on the couch and was not allowed in Leslie’s bedroom. The judge told Leslie that if she still wanted a divorce after 6-months that he would grant it.

Naturally, Bill was on his best behavior during this time. Leslie was happy that she could feed her children and that a big burden was lifted. Bill wasn’t drinking and wasn’t beating her. He romanced his way back into Leslie’s heart and bedroom.

The divorce was NEVER finalized.

These circumstances demolished Leslie’s self-esteem and made her believe that there was no way out - regardless how bad the situation was. It told her that her feelings did not matter. It told her that there was no help and that the only way she could afford to raise her children was to remain with Bill.

The drinking started back up. The cheating started back up, but luckily the physical abuse stopped - even though the mental abuse could be unbearable at times.

Leslie, stayed with Bill for another 25 years - until her death of cancer. Bill remarried within a month of her death.

This story is more than likely similar to thousands of stories of the trial and tribulations that women had no recourse. “No Fault” divorce has enabled women to become EMPOWERED to TAKE CHARGE OF THEIR LIFE!!!

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Filed Under: Inspiration


  1. Ken Maynard says:

    Yes we have come a long way, and have a long way to go until. we mediation divorce and not litigate divorce as a matter of course.

    Ken Maynard

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