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Divorce Statistics in the United States



Since the early 1980s, the divorce rate in the U.S. has steadily declined. The long-held belief that at least 50% of marriages end in divorce is no longer true. Divorce Statistics collected in recent years by census reports, government and private studies and university research paint an interesting portrait of marriage and divorce in the United States.

Many states now have no-fault divorce laws. Spouses do not have to allege a specific reason for wanting a divorce other than having irreconcilable differences or that the marriage is irretrievably broken. However, some of the most common reasons that marriages fail include infidelity, addiction and abuse.

A majority of Americans claim that they would end their marriage if they discovered their spouse had cheated on them. Yet research shows that 50-60% of couples who have dealt with infidelity in their marriage found ways to overcome the issue and stay together.

Addictions may include, drugs, alcohol, porn, and gambling. A University of Buffalo study revealed that nearly 50% of couples divorced when only one partner drank heavily. Where partners had similar drinking habits, the divorce rate during the same period was 30%. Other research shows that if only one spouse smokes, a couple is 75-91% more likely to divorce.

Divorce Statistics and Risk Factors

In some cases, spouses simply fall out of love with each other, but in many failed marriages, specific risk factors have been shown to increase the likelihood of divorce. Persons without a religious affiliation are 14% more likely to divorce. High school dropouts are 13% more likely to divorce, and people with incomes of $25,000 or less are 30% more likely to divorce compared to those with incomes over $50,000.

The belief that getting to know a future spouse by living together before marriage is not necessarily accurate. A critical analysis published in the Journal of Marriage and Family indicated that persons who cohabitate before marriage generally have more lenient attitudes toward divorce. This is particularly true for those who lived together with several partners before settling down. The divorce risk is reduced for couples who become engaged before living together.

If one spouse has parents who divorced, the risk of a marriage failing is doubled. When both spouses have experienced the divorce of their parents, the risk for divorce triples. This does not mean a marriage is doomed from the start, but this suggests that couples may need to be aware of the trend and commit a greater effort to make their marriage succeed.

Other factors that have been shown to increase the chances of divorce include having family members, friends or co-workers who have recently divorced, excessive spending on an engagement ring and wedding and marrying someone significantly different in age.

November and December are typically the months with the lowest number of divorce filings. Research conducted by the University of Washington reveals that March and August are the most common times for divorce actions to be commenced

The Third Time is Not a Charm

Today it is estimated that about 40-42% of all first marriages will end in divorce or separation.  For second marriages the divorce rate is 60-65%. The concept that the third time you try something you are bound to succeed does not apply to marriage. 73% of third marriages fail. In recent years, approximately 2,400 divorces per day were finalized in the U.S.

The average length of a first marriage is eight years. The likelihood of a first marriage ending in divorce or separation within five years is 20%, a figure that climbs to 33% within 10 years. The average age for couples going through a divorce is 30, and nearly 60% of all divorces involve spouses between the ages of 25 and 39.

The divorce rate for people over 50 has doubled since 1990, and 25% of all divorces now involve spouses in that age group. In fact, of all age groups, Black women between 50 and 59 constitute the group most likely to get divorced. The impact of a “grey divorce” is often greater than when spouses break up at a younger age. Women who obtain a divorce after age 50 commonly experience a 45% drop in their standard of living according to a 2019 L.A. Times report that summarized findings of several studies examining divorces involving older spouses.

Despite higher rates of failure for subsequent marriages, nearly 75% of divorced people remarry. Men are more likely to remarry than women. Of those who remarry, the average wait to tie the knot after a divorce is three years. Six percent of divorced couples end up remarrying each other.

Children, Location, Politics and Cost

Couples who have children have a slightly lower divorce rate than couples without children. For couples who have a baby seven months or more after getting married the risk of divorce is reduced by 24%. If there is a daughter but no son in a marriage, the couple is 5% more likely to divorce. More is not necessarily merrier. Having twins or triplets increases the divorce risk by 17%.

In general, divorce rates are the lowest in the northeastern region of the U.S. and highest in the south and west. States with some of the lowest divorce rates include Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey and Vermont. States with some of the highest rates include Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nevada, Wyoming and Idaho.

Research indicates that couples in traditionally Republican states are more likely to divorce than couples in Democratic states. In part, this may be due to people who identify as Republicans tending to marry at younger ages. The only U.S. presidents known to have been divorced are Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.

The average cost for a divorce in the U.S. is about $15,000. This amount can be significantly increased or decreased by the complexity of the issues and the extent of agreement by the spouses on major issues.

Divorce is never easy. Even the most amicable divorces trigger strong emotions. Having a supportive group of family and friends helps one to remain strong and focused. Retaining or at least consulting with an experienced family law attorney can also go a long way to ensure that both your interests and rights are protected. If you have any questions concerning divorce in New Jersey, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for initial consultation. Peter Van Aulen has over 27 years of divorce and family law experience. He is one of the few lawyers in New Jersey who is certified as a matrimonial attorney by the New Jersey Supreme Court.


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Peter Van Aulen was selected to the 2016 and 2017 Super Lawyers list. The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thomson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found here. No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Peter Van Aulen has received a rating by Martindale Hubbell. A description of the rating methodology can be found here. No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Peter Van Aulen is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney.

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