The Real Rate of Divorce

Aug 8, 2012 by

Divorce rates have been on the rise in the United States ever since the turn of the 20th century when the divorce rate in America was estimated to be less than 5% of all marriages. Divorces were more difficult to obtain back then because the parties had to prove sufficient cause like abuse, adultery and abandonment. During the 1940’s the American divorce rate was estimated to be about 14% of total marriages. The situation began to change when divorces in the U.S. began to rise after WWII ended and hundreds of thousands of soldiers returned to their home towns across the nation. The number of divorces leveled off a bit in the 1950’s, only to rise again in the mid-1960’s. The increase in divorce in the 60’s came at a time when the economy was rapidly expanding and large numbers of women were entering the workforce for the first time.

Yet another big change in the national divorce rate occurred during the 70’s when no fault divorce laws in most states were put in place in most states across the country. By 1975 the number of marriages had decreased by 30% and the number of divorces had risen to 40%. The national divorce rate has been rising slowly ever since and now many estimates claim the overall rate of divorce has reached 50%, and that half of all marriages now end in divorce.

Determining the total number of divorces is an inexact science and many different methods have been used along the way. Some researchers have suggested that the divorce rate is now actually lower than it was in the mid-1970’s for certain groups within the population. Factors supporting lower overall divorce numbers include education and wealth, with the chances of divorce shrinking for those with higher educations and middle-class or above incomes. Research has also indicated the rate of divorce decreases after 20 years of marriage and that persons marrying at younger ages have higher divorce rates overall.

New studies have shown that younger people definitely have higher rates of divorce, but the rates are not the same for both sexes. Women under the age of 20 at time of marriage have a near 28% risk of divorce compared to 20-year-old men who have around an 11% risk. By the time they get to be 29 years old the rate for women drops to 16% and the rate for men goes up to 22%. However, couples marrying above the age of 39 have a vastly reduced risk of divorce that drops down to the 6% range for both sexes.

The changes introduced to state laws with the adoption of no fault divorces in the 1960’s seem to have had the unfortunate side effect of increasing the number of divorces in the country. No fault grounds were first introduced as a positive solution to the costly adversarial divorce process, but the reality of the situation was that the introduction of no fault divorces made getting divorces so much easier that more people were inclined to get divorced. The no fault laws may have helped to streamline the divorce process, but they also resulted in more divorces and created more hardship for families and children.
Some research estimates indicate that the no fault laws have increased the number of divorces in the United States by as much as 25% since their introduction.

It may be impossible to predict an exact rate of divorce for couples getting married in the United States today, but it is safe to say that if current trends continue, the divorce rate will continue to rise for the foreseeable future.


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