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Why Are Divorce Rates So… Low?

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Category: Divorce

Why Are Divorce Rates So... Low

We all know the common statistic about divorce in America: roughly 50% of marriages end in divorce, right? Wrong. Sort of.


First, let’s talk about where the 50% statistic comes from. When statistics about the rate of marriages and divorces come out each year, the two are compared and usually the rate of marriage doubles the rate of divorces. Hence, 50% of marriages end in divorce. This statistic isn’t necessarily true, since the two statistics aren’t exactly related (it’s rare for a couple to get married and divorced in the same year), but that’s where it comes from.


Even if you accept that statistic as meaning that half of all marriages end in divorce, though, our current divorce rate still isn’t 50%.


Here’s the short history version of what happened. When divorce laws were loosened in the middle of the 20th century, the number of divorces naturally increased. These numbers kept going up until they were around 50% in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.


Since then, though, the numbers have been dropping. The 1980 rate of divorce was 23 divorces for every 1,000 married women. In 2015, the rate of divorce was 16.9 divorces for every 1,000 married women. Meanwhile, the marriage rate is increasing. The 2015 marriage rate was 32.2 marriages for every 1,000 unmarried women. This is the highest that it has been in years.


So while more people are getting married, fewer are getting divorced.


Which begs the question: why are our divorce rates so low?


What Causes Divorce Rates to Fall?


Colorado Divorce Law

Keep in mind that this is the divorce rate for the entire country. Rates differ by income level, education level, and age. For example, adults over the age of 55 are actually going through more divorces (also known as “gray” divorces). Also, millennials are both getting married at lower rates than previous generations and they are getting divorced at lower rates than previous generations. They’re also young, though, so that’s something that could change as they age.


That being said, one of the most influential factors in the falling divorce rate in general is that people are waiting longer to get married. Since couples are less likely to rush into a marriage, they are less likely to have made a “wrong choice” and want a divorce.


Beyond this, social scientists have pointed to a number of different things that may be influencing the falling divorce rates. These reasons include:


  • Change in Culture and Attitude. Today, more people live together without ever marrying. There is less of a social stigma to being a single parent. Simply put, there is a lot less pressure to tie the knot. Because of this, even couples who plan to marry often wait longer. The median age for a woman getting married is around 27 today. That number was around 20 in the 1950s.
  • Balance after the Feminist Movement of the ‘70s and ‘80s. In the 1970s, the feminist movement was a big reason that divorce rates This wave of feminism fought for legislation that made it possible for more women to file for divorce, and many members of this movement argued that marriage was a form of oppression. However, since these ideas have been around for decades and divorce legislation has not greatly changed in the past few years, we’ve seen divorce rates balance out from their huge surge in the 70s. Moreover, the Movement led to changes in how men and women view and treat each other. While it’s certainly not perfect and not everyone lives this way, marriage today is far more about equality and mutual respect and love.
  • More Resources for Couples in Trouble. The most optimistic reason for falling divorce rates is that couples are happier in their marriages. Relationship counseling and therapy are becoming less taboo, and more couples are taking advantage of these services when they’re in trouble. Relationship advice is now available to couples through the internet and social media as well, further allowing couples to explore communication and conflict resolution strategies.
  • Alternatives to Divorce. Just because a couple wants to separate does not mean they have to get a formal divorce. There are alternative options to divorce that still allow couples to separate their property and make child custody/support decisions without the formal divorce process. In some cases, the mediation process involved with separating can even bring a couple back together.

Centennial CO Divorce Attorney

If you are considering divorcing your spouse but want to explore alternative options, contact a Colorado family lawyer with experience in mediation, collaborative divorce, and alternative dispute resolutions.



About the Author:


Vernon Ready is an award-winning Colorado lawyer with an in-depth understanding of all areas of family law, estate planning, and personal injury. His energetic and aggressive advocacy approach allow him to successfully navigate complex cases, including high asset divorce and complicated custody issues. During his time at the University of Colorado Law School, Ready won numerous awards for his trial advocacy skills. Since being admitted to practice in 2009, Ready has become well-known throughout Denver and the state for the passionate defense of his clients and his unparalleled understanding of the law.