Why was Reno once known as the divorce capital? Because of its six-week residency requirement and reputation for the "quickie divorce." Nevada was known for a willingness to shorten its already short residency requirement in order to pull in the economic benefits of divorce as early as 1898. Money that divorce seekers spent on attorney fees, hotels, with merchants, restaurants and in casinos was significant income.
When the movement for moral reform hit the country after the Civil War, Nevada's residency laws went to six months and then to one year. Business owners and representatives lobbied for a reduction and gradually had the requirement dropped back to six weeks by 1931. The number of divorces filed in Nevada courts almost doubled each time the residency requirement dropped. By 1940, 49 out of 1,000 divorces filed in the United States were filed in Nevada.
Entrepreneurs looking to make a buck on the divorce racket established "divorce ranches" where divorce seekers could wait out their six-week residency requirement.
In addition to the money aspect of divorce, Reno gained notoriety for famous divorces. Actors and actresses, recording stars and other famous people including Mary Pickford, Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr., Jack Dempsey, Rita Hayworth, Gloria Vanderbilt and many others sought Reno's quickie divorces.
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