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Are Divorce Rates Really Increasing?

Written by on December 23, 2014

Divorce is often presented as an incredibly common part of modern life, one that is only continuing to become more popular as time goes on. In fact, one of the most commonly-cited statistics, taken from the U.S. Census Bureau, reports that 50% of all marriages entered into today will end in divorce. Other statistics suggest that this rate increases the more times you have been married: for example, 60% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages do not last.

If you are currently in the process of separating from your spouse, or know someone who is working with a divorce attorney or divorce law firm, these claims likely seem very probable to you. However, a number of recent articles have reported that the divorce rate is not actually rising; some have even claimed that it has decreased from that startling 50%. What does this mean about the state of marriage and divorce in the United States? And how many Americans are actually seeking out divorce lawyers and family law attorneys?

In truth, the divorce rate seems to have been decreasing since 1980, when the introduction of no-fault divorce laws likely made it possible for many unhappy older couples to separate. This was compounded by an increasing emphasis on education and professional success, particularly for women, who may have put off marriage to achieve non-domestic goals. But even if these possibilities could be proven, experts say that it is much more difficult to conclusively determine the rate of divorce in the U.S.: the National Center for Health Statistics stopped collecting information on marriage and divorce in 1996 due to budgetary concerns. However, their information may not have been as telling as it seemed even before the budget cuts, as states like California have never reported their divorce rates.

Currently, most publications and experts agree that as a whole, the divorce rate is lower than 50% and is not rising. However, studies show that this may vary significantly based on the details of a person’s life. People who are more educated and do not marry until they are older, for example, have been demonstrated to be less likely to get divorced. Similarly, couples who frequently attend religious services have lower divorce rates than couples who aren’t involved. Additionally, couples who marry after having children, rather than before, are more likely to seek out the services of a divorce law firm.

In spite of this trend, however, it can’t be denied that divorce is affecting American society, not just its subgroups. Studies show that many people are now choosing to wait longer before marriage, possibly to increase the stability of their careers and relationships, decreasing the chances of separation. Meanwhile, relatively recent developments, like no-fault divorce, have changed divorce from a reason to despair to a healthy, accepted choice in many people’s eyes. Divorce may not be as common as some have claimed, but the U.S. has shifted enough so that a trip to a divorce law firm is no longer a reason for shame.

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