How Much Do You Know About Divorce in the USA? – 101 Facts About Divorce in 2021 | Law Offices of GillespieShields

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How Much Do You Know About Divorce in the USA?

101 Facts About Divorce in 2021


Did you know that the divorce rate in the US is going down, but not because couples are deciding to stay together? On the contrary, they’re just not getting married at all!  Divorce is a complex issue that has an impact on so many parts of our lives.  Knowing those facts can help us understand more about this complex issue. 

We know finding facts and figures about divorce in America can be time-consuming and frustrating, so we put together this list of the top 101 facts, notes, and statistics so you can easily reference them and refer back to them any time in the future.  This space is constantly changing, so if you see a fact that is not up-to-date, feel free to let us know. And if you know a stat that we should add, let us know that too!

1. Divorce in the United States, also known as dissolution of marriage, is a legal process in which a judge or other authority dissolves the bonds of matrimony existing between two persons, thus restoring them to the status of being single and permitting them to marry other individuals.

*Each state in the United States has its own set of grounds. A person must state the reason they want a divorce at a divorce trial and be able to prove that this reason is well-founded. Several states require that the couple must live apart for several months before being granted a divorce. However, living apart is not accepted as grounds for a divorce in many states.

2. As of 2016, both marriage rates AND divorce rates in the US are decreasing.

*Recent studies have shown that millenials are choosing to wait longer to get married and stay married longer and are the main driver in the decline of both the marriage and divorce rate in the US.

3. The marriage rate in the United States is currently 6.8 per 1,000 total population.

4. The divorce rate in the U.S. is 3.2 per 1,000 population (as of 2014 the latest year of data from the CDC. (with 44 states and D.C. reporting) 

*This is known as the “crude divorce rate”. Although useful for describing changes in divorce rates over time, the crude divorce rate does not provide accurate information on the percentage of first marriages that end in divorce.

5. Currently, the divorce rate per 1000 married women is 16.9. 

*Many experts feel that this is a much more accurate measure of true divorce rate than the crude rate.

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6. The divorce rate per 1000 married women is nearly double that of 1960, but down from the all-time high of 22.6 in the early 1980s.

7. Almost 50 percent of all marriages in the United States will end in divorce or separation.

8. Researchers estimate that 41 percent of all first marriages end in divorce.

9. 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce.

10. 73 percent of all third marriages end in divorce.

11. Every 13 seconds, there is one divorce in America.

*That equates to 277 divorces per hour, 6,646 divorces per day, 46,523 divorces per week, and 2,419,196 divorces per year.

12. More than 554 divorces occur during your typical romantic comedy movie (2 hours).

13. There are 9 divorces in the time it takes for a couple to recite their wedding vows (2 minutes).

14. Among all Americans 18 years of age or older, whether they have been married or not, 25 percent have gone through a marital split.

15. 15 percent of adult women in the United States are divorced or separated today, compared with less than one percent in 1920.

16. The average first marriage that ends in divorce lasts about 8 years.

17. There are 19,353,568 divorces over the course of an average first marriage that ends in divorce (8 years).

18. People wait an average of three years after a divorce to remarry (if they remarry at all).

19. The average age for couples going through their first divorce is 30 years old.

20. 60 percent of all divorces involve individuals aged 25 to 39.

21. Wives are the ones who most often file for divorce at 66 percent on average. 

 *That figure has soared to nearly 75 percent in some years.

22. According to the Pentagon, the military divorce rate is 3.4 percent in the 2013 fiscal year.

*However, the rate was significantly higher in military women at 7.2 percent.

23. The Divorce rate among enlisted troops was 3.8 percent. Among officers, the divorce rate was 1.9 percent.

24. The Air Force has the highest divorce rate among enlisted troops of any military branch at 4.3 percent.

25. The divorce rate among U.S. Navy Seals is over 90 percent.

26. The divorce rate among people 50 and older has doubled in the past 20 years, according to research by Bowling Green State University.

27. The divorce rate among couples where one spouse is in jail or prison for one year or more is 80 percent for men and close to 100 percent for women.

28. About 1 percent of married same-sex couples get divorced each year, while about 2 percent of married straight couples divorce.

29. According to figures from the UK’s Office of National Statistics, lesbian couples are nearly twice as likely to end a marriage or civil union than gay male couples are.

30. In the United States, the divorce rate is 3.1 per 1000 people that allow same-sex marriage, and 3.9 in states that prohibit it.

31. January is considered “divorce month”. 

*People start looking for information before the New Year starts, but they can’t do much until the attorneys are back in the office. January 12-16 seems to be the magic week for filings.

32. Lack of commitment is the most common reason given by divorcing couples according to a recent national survey. 

*Here are the reasons given and their percentages:

  • Lack of commitment – 73%
  • Argue too much – 56%
  • Infidelity – 55%
  • Married too young – 46%
  • Unrealistic expectations – 45%
  • Lack of equality in the relationship – 44%
  • Lack of preparation for marriage – 41%
  • Domestic Violence or Abuse – 25%

33. 48 percent of those who marry before the age of 18 are likely to divorce within 10 years, compared to 25 percent of those who marry after the age of 25.

34. In 2018, there were more than 782,038 divorces and annulments in the United States.

*However, though that number may sound extremely high, the divorce rate is dropping. In 2018, there were only 2.9 divorces per 1,000 total people, excluding data from California, Hawaii, Indiana, Minnesota, and New Mexico.

35. Alcohol habits can affect couples’ marital habits.

*A study by the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions showed that if one partner is a heavy drinker and the other isn’t, these couples were more likely to break up than if both partners had the same drinking habits.

36. About half of all mothers who have custody of their children have child support agreements, compared to roughly 30% of custodial fathers.

*In 2014, there were more than 13.4 million parents separated from the child’s other parent living with children under the age of 21. Five out of six custodial parents are mothers, about half of whom receive child support. The average child support payment per month in the United States as of 2010 was $430, though this varies on both the noncustodial and custodial parents’ incomes.

37. Among parents who have child support agreements, less than half actually receive the full amount of support they’re entitled to.

*According to CBS, more than 30% of child support payments are evaded altogether, and less than half of all child support payments are paid in full.

38. According to a recent Census survey, about half of all Black children in the US lived in single-parent households where their primary caregiver had full or partial custody. 

39. Young girls who grow up without their fathers may experience trouble in their relationships.

*A study shows that young women who lacked the presence of their father experienced fewer educational prospects and weakened physical health than young women who had intact families.

40. Children whose parents fought a lot but stayed together are more likely to divorce than children whose parents divorced.

*While children of divorce are still more likely to get divorced than children who grew up in happy families, a recent report by Pew Social Trends, based on data from the National Survey of Families and Households, found that children who grew up in “high-conflict” households whose parents still stayed together were more likely to divorce than children of high-conflict parents who split up.

41. Black women between the ages of 50 and 59 have been identified as the group most likely to get divorced.

The study found that roughly half of white and Hispanic women in their early 40s were stably married, compared to less than a third of Black women in the same age group.

42. Divorced or widowed men are more likely to remarry than divorced or widowed women.

*Researchers found that while more men reported remarrying, this could have been due to the fact that many women who either divorced or had a spouse who died didn’t actually want to remarry. Only 30% of eligible men said they did not want to marry again, compared to 54% of divorced and widowed women.

43. A majority of Americans believe that divorce is preferable to staying in an unhappy marriage.

44. Mel and Robyn Gibson’s divorce in 2009 is considered to be the largest celebrity divorce settlement, as Mel paid his ex $425 million.

45. The celebrity who has been married and divorced the most is actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, who has been married nine times.

46. Britney Spears holds the record for shortest celebrity marriage; her union with friend Jason Alexander lasted only 56 hours before it was annulled.

*Other short divorces include:

  • Eddie Murphy and Tracey Edmonds, 2 weeks
  • Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, 72 days
  • Michael Jackson & Lisa Marie Presley, 9 months

47. The “Real Housewives” franchise has an overall divorce rate of 35%.

48. As of 2018, the newest series, Real Housewives of Dallas, has no divorces, while Real Housewives of D.C., cancelled after only one season, has a 100% divorce rate. 

*Here’s how they all rank:

  • Real Housewives of Dallas – 0% divorce rate
  • Real Housewives of New Jersey – 11.1% divorce rate
  • Real Housewives of Orange County – 23.5% divorce rate
  • Real Housewives of Beverly Hills – 30.7% divorce rate
  • Real Housewives of Miami – 42.9% divorce rate
  • Real Housewives of New York – 50% divorce rate
  • Real Housewives of Potomac – 50% divorce rate
  • Real Housewives of Atlanta – 60% divorce rate
  • Real Housewives of D.C. – 100% divorce rate

49. Couples may be most likely to divorce in March and August.

*A 2016 research presented at the American Sociological Association found that March and August bring spikes in divorce filings. The researchers say it’s meaningful that March and August follow holiday or vacation periods. In the paper, they suggest that holidays represent something like “optimism cycles” — we see them as a chance to start anew in our relationships, only to find that the same problems exist once they’re over.

50. Married people who watch porn may be more likely to divorce.

*A recent study, which was presented at the American Sociological Association, found that married people who start watching pornography are about twice as likely to get divorced as those who don’t. The study involved about 2,000 participants over the course of nearly a decade. It found that the effect was even stronger for women, who were about three times as likely to get divorced if they started watching porn during the study period.

51. Husbands who don’t work full-time may be more likely to get divorced.

*A recent Harvard study couples suggests that it’s not a couple’s finances that affect their chances of divorce, but rather the division of labor. When the researcher looked at heterosexual marriages that began after 1975, she learned that couples in which the husband didn’t have a full-time job had a 3.3% chance of divorcing the following year, compared to 2.5% among couples in which the husband did have a full-time job.

52. Women who have more sexual partners before getting married aren’t always more likely to get divorce.

*Wolfinger conducted another analysis that found, among heterosexual couples who married in the 2000s, women who had between three and nine sexual partners were in fact less likely to divorce than women who’d had two partners (a.k.a their husband and one other person).

53. The closer a couple is in age, the Less likely they are to get divorced.

*One study found that the odds of divorce among heterosexual couples increase with the age gap between the spouses. As Megan Garber reported at The Atlantic: “A one-year discrepancy in a couple’s ages, the study found, makes them 3 percent more likely to divorce (when compared to their same-aged counterparts); a 5-year difference, however, makes them 18 percent more likely to split up. And a 10-year difference makes them 39 percent more likely.”

54. More lavish weddings may predict less successful marriages.

*The same study mentioned above found that spending a lot on your wedding doesn’t necessarily bode well for the marriage itself. According to the researchers: “As compared with spending between $5,000 and $10,000 on the wedding, spending less than $1,000 is associated with half the hazard of divorce in the sample of men, and spending $20,000 or more is associated with 1.6 times the hazard of divorce in the sample of women.”

55. Women may experience literal heartbreak as a result of divorce.

*Recent research suggests that women who get divorced are more likely to suffer a heart attack than women who stay married. As Time’s Alice Park reported: “Women who divorced at least once were 24% more likely to experience a heart attack compared to women who remained married, and those divorcing two or more times saw their risk jump to 77%.”

56. Couples who display ‘Contempt’ for each other are more likely to split up.

*Business Insider’s Erin Brodwin reported on relationship expert John Gottman’s research, which suggests that contempt — a mix of anger and disgust that involves seeing your partner as beneath you — is a key predictor of divorce.

57. There are only two states in the world where divorce is illegal.

*Aside from Vatican City, the Philippines is the only country in the world where divorce is still not legitimised. This is mainly due to the deeply rooted traditions and beliefs grounded on culture and the predominant Christian faith.

58. Lawyers and solicitors earn a lot from divorce cases.

*Divorce is a lucrative field of business for solicitors and lawyers. In fact, as of 2013, a divorce attorney earns an average annual wage of $56,000 in the U.S. In big cities in the United Kingdom such as London, a divorce solicitor can generate an income of £80,000.

59. A historical divorce led to the establishment of a religion.

*Historian Anne Foreman describes the divorce of Henry VII and Catherine of Aragon as ‘the most celebrated divorce case in history’. Although it involved the married couple, it was actually more of a struggle between Henry and Pope Clement VII. In 1527, Henry attempted to compel the pope into terminating his marriage to his Catherine who could not give him a male heir. He planned on marrying a younger lady, Anne Boleyn. In 1533, Henry removed himself from Rome and ‘declared himself the head of a new church, the Church of England’. Due to this decision, the collateral damage was the religious customs of a massive community. Religion back then was more than just an organised group of people practising a common faith but a social system of patronage and politics. Thus, the closing of churches and the establishment of a new religion brought many changes.

60. Compared to the general public, Muslims are equally likely to be married, but are less likely to be divorced.

*Roughly half of the adult population of Muslims and the general public are married. Muslims, however, are more likely to be single (never married), compared to the general public (35% of Muslims vs. 22% of the general public). This also reflects the fact that Muslims are on average younger than the general public, with 41% of American Muslim adults between the age of 18-29 compared to just 21% of the general public in the same age bracket. With Muslim young people making up roughly double the portion of their community compared to the general public, it is not surprising that Muslims are more likely to be single (never married). Perhaps because of the same age difference, Muslims are also less likely than the general public to be divorced (6% vs. 11%). 

61. Muslims are more likely than white Evangelicals to see divorce as acceptable.

*The community is split, with a slight majority (54%) agreeing that “divorce is usually the best solution when a couple can’t seem to work out their marriage problems.” This phrasing is included in a standard question used by the CDC to measure social acceptance of divorce for decades. The public at large is also split, with 49% expressing agreement with this statement. It is interesting to note that Muslims (54%) are more likely than white Evangelicals (31%) to accept divorce, but less likely than Catholics (65%)–despite the fact that divorce is sanctioned in Islam but against the teachings of the Catholic Church.

62. Muslim young people are more accepting of divorce than their generational peers in general public.

*Though Muslims (54%) are slightly more likely than the general public (49%) to accept divorce, this difference is more pronounced when comparing across cohorts of 18-29 year olds in each group. While 51% of young Muslims (18-29 year olds) agree divorce is the best solution when a couple can’t seem to work out their marriage problems, only 40% of young people in the general population say the same. This was one of the most surprising results from the study.

63. A majority of Muslims would like more support for divorced people in their faith community.

*Roughly the same percentage of Muslims who accept divorce as a solution to unresolvable marital problems believe their faith community should be more supportive of divorced people. In fact, Muslims (58%) and Catholics (59%) are the most likely groups to desire improvements in how divorced people fare in their communities. This view is especially salient among young Muslims where 61% of 18-29 year olds hold this view compared to 46% of those 50 and older. Community leaders would do well to consider the views of the majority of Muslims when creating support programs and educational opportunities in their Muslim institutions.

64. Muslims are less likely than those in the general public, Jews, and those that consider themselves non-affiliated to accept a divorced person as a spouse for their child.

*A majority of Muslims (67%) say they would accept their child marrying a divorced person, more likely than white Evangelicals, on par with Protestants and Catholics, but less likely than the general public, Jews, and non-affiliated Americans. This points to the enduring reality that divorce is stigmatized and divorced people are not fully accepted by a significant swath of society, and Muslims are no exception.

65. Remarriage increases the risk of divorce.

*According to the Census Bureau, the rate of divorce increases in relation to how many times you marry. This means, the more you marry, the more likely you are to divorce.

66. Divorce rates vary dramatically from state to state.

*The lowest divorce rate by state occurs in Illinois and Louisiana, with rates of just 1.9 per 1,000 people. Conversely, the states with the highest divorce race are Nevada and Oklahoma, with 4.5 and 4.1 per 1,000 people, respectively.

67. The rate of divorce after 10 years is 48% for those who marry before the age of 18.

*But the rate is just 25% for those who marry after the age of 25. For people who marry between the ages of 20-25, there is a 44%-60% chance of the union ending in divorce.

68. “Gray divorce” rates have risen dramatically over the last 30 years.

*Amongst adults aged 50+, the national divorce rate has roughly doubled since 1990. For those aged 65+, it has actually tripled, from 2 in 1,000 married persons to 6 in 1,000. This indicates that people over the age of 50 are more likely to get divorced now than ever before.

69. Ages 28-32 could be the best time to get married.

*As we know by now, divorce rates vary by age. But there isn’t a linear trend that shows divorce rates increase or decrease as you get older. Still, people who get married in their late-twenties or early-thirties are statistically less likely to get divorced.

70. People are 75% more likely to end their marriage if a friend is divorced.

*Having friends who are divorced can greatly increase your chances of becoming divorced yourself, according to a research team from Brown University. Whilst you are 75% more likely to end your own marriage if you are friends with a divorcee, you are 33% more likely to get divorced if you have a friend of a friend who has formally ended a marriage.

71. Divorce rates may not give the true picture.

*Although divorce rates have fallen in recent years, marriage rates have dropped, too. When comparing marriage vs divorce statistics, it is important to assess the rates in context. In the 1990s, the national marriage rate in America was 9.8 people per 1,000. Currently, it is 6.9 per 1,000. With more couples living together without formalizing their union, the rate of divorce cannot accurately represent the number of long-term relationship breakdowns.

72. Separation doesn’t count in terms of divorce statistics.

*The majority of people who separate do go on to divorce, but that’s not always the case. 91% of white women who are separated will divorce within three years, but this figure drops to 77% for Hispanic women and 67% for African-American women. As long-term separation is not counted in most divorce statistics, the rate of marriage breakdowns could be higher than divorce rates suggest.

73. Education may impact divorce rates.

*The average marriage failure rate varies depending on each spouse’s level of education. 78% of women with bachelor’s degrees who married for the first time in 2006-2010 can expect their marriage to last for at least 20 years. In contrast, 49% of women with some college education and 40% of women with a high school diploma or less can expect their marriage to last for the same period.

74. Cohabiting can impact your risk of divorce.

*Couples who do not cohabit before getting married are less likely to obtain a divorce within the first 20 years of their union. Men who live with their partner prior to marriage have a 49% chance of avoiding divorce for at least 20 years, while women who live with their partner before marrying have a 46% chance of remaining married for at least 20 years.

75. Divorce is less likely than cohabitee break-ups.

*There is a 20% chance of a first marriage resulting in divorce within five years. In comparison, couples who cohabit for five years have a 49% chance of separating. Similarly, married couples have a 33% chance of divorce within 10 years, whilst cohabiting couples have a 62% chance of splitting up in this timeframe. These statistics indicate that married couples are likely to remain together longer than couples who choose to cohabit but do not marry.

76. 52% of single parents have been married at some point.

*Slightly more than half of single parents have been married. While some marriage dissolutions are due to the death of one spouse, this is indicative of a high number of children being raised by divorced parents.

77. 35% of parents who are now cohabiting were once married.

*The Pew Research Center reports that over a third of cohabiting parents used to be married. This implies that a significant number of children are being raised by or living informal step-parents.

78. US divorce rates are higher than those of other continents.

*Comparative analysis shows that divorce rates in America are higher than in Europe. Some European countries have fairly similar divorce rates to those in the US, while others have a far lower national divorce average. For Europe as a whole, this average falls below the respective US divorce rate.

79. The US has one of the highest crude divorce rates in the world.

*With a crude divorce rate of 2.9 per 1,000 people, the of divorce in America is more common than in many other countries, including Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, and Mexico.

80. Ronald Reagan is the only known U.S President to have been divorced.

81. Couples in Republican states are 27% more likely to divorce than couples in Democratic states, as Republicans have historically married younger than Democrats.

82. According to 2012 U.S. Census Bureau statistics, New Jersey has the lowest divorce rate out of all 50 states.

*Also with low divorce rates are New York, Connecticut, Delaware, and Massachusetts. The East coast in general has a divorce rate of less than 12%.

83. Nevada has the highest rate of divorce at 14.7%. Wyoming, Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee all have rates of divorce over 13.%.

84. Dancers and choreographers reported the highest divorce rates at 43.1%, followed by bartenders at 38.4% and massage therapists at 38.2%.

*Other occupations in the top 10 include casino workers, telephone operators, nurses and home health aides.

85. Occupations with the lowest divorce rates include agricultural engineers, salespeople, nuclear engineers, optometrists, clergy, and podiatrists.

86. Women who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer are more likely to divorce by 40%.

*If a man is diagnosed with testicular cancer, the marriage is 20% more likely to divorce. In contrast, breast cancer survivors are 8% less likely to divorce than women who have not had breast cancer.

87. Men are eight times more likely than divorced women to commit suicide. 

*They are also twice as likely to suffer depression and heart attacks.

88. If a spouse has gained more than 20% of his or her body weight, divorce is more likely.

89. If one partner smokes, a marriage is 75% more likely to end in divorce.

90. If there is a daughter and no son in a marriage, the union is 5% more likely to end.

91. Having twins or triplets increases the risk of divorce by 17%.

92. Children of divorced parents are twice as likely to drop out of high school and less likely to attend college.

93. Couples that disagree about money and family finances at least once per week, as opposed to those couples that disagree one or less times per month about finances, are 30% more likely to divorce.

*The likelihood of divorce increases with the amount of time couples argue about money.

94. A 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center indicated that 53 percent of spouses reported “adequate” income as being an important factor in a satisfactory marriage, and 51 percent also placed emphasis on “good housing”.

95. People that live in jurisdictions where it is more difficult to get a divorce stay married longer.

96. Social media sites, such as Facebook, are mentioned in the pleadings of more than half of all divorce cases in the country.

97. Glynn Wolfe holds the record for the highest number of monogamous marriages (and thus divorces) with 29.

98. A University of Michigan study released in 2012 found that when a husband develops a good relationship with the wife’s parents, the couple is 20% less likely to divorce.

99. Divorce lawyers need seven years of education after high school to become licensed to practice law (4 years of undergraduate study and 3 years of law school).

100. Like other attorneys, divorce lawyers that are solo practitioners don’t make as much money as you think, and their rate of pay has actually decreased significantly since 1988 adjusting for inflation.

101. New York City, New York is the place most densely populated with divorce attorneys in the US. 

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