Social and Economic Costs of Divorce

Part of the Divorce Reform Page, sponsored by Americans for Divorce Reform
Legislation | Statistics | Articles/Opinion | Quotations | Polls | Other family-related articles

NOTE: Newer information on the same topics is available on The Divorce Statistics and Studies Blog. But a lot of important, pre-2008 information is collected only on this site, the Divorce Statistics Collection. So you should check both this site and the blog.

David G. Schramm, "Individual and Social Costs of Divorce in Utah". [Title is somethng of a misnomer, as it gives information for the entire country as well as Utah specifically. This is actually the most comprehensive study of this question in the U.S. that we know of. Includes abundant citations to supporting studies.]

News release summarizing Schramm study

Testimony of Prof. Sean Brotherson applying the Schramm study to give estimated costs of divorce in North Dakota.

What Could Divorce Be Costing Your State?
[Chart of all states based on preliminary data from Schramm study]

The 2004 State of Our Unions report reveals that "marriages that end in divorce also are very costly to the public. One researcher determined that a single divorce costs state and federal governments about $30,000, based on such things as the higher use of food stamps and public housing as well as increased bankruptcies and juvenile delinquency. The nation's 10.4 million divorces in 2002 are estimated to have cost the taxpayers over $30 billion."
[Whitehead, B. and Popenoe, D. The State of Our Unions. Retrieved July 13, 2004 from]

The first study of this subject, as far as I know, was conducted by U.Va. sociology prof. Steven Nock and U. Iowa Law and Economics prof. Margaret Brinig. At the 1999 Smart Marriages conference they reported on the first stage of their work, which simply consisted of listing the direct costs to government from divorce, and speculating about what areas some of the indirect costs could be in. A tape of their workshop can be ordered on the Smart Marriages site.

How much does a divorce cost for ordinary people?

In the U.S., "the average divorce costs nearly $50,000, and ... $175 billion
is spent annually on divorce, mostly on litigation."
From "It's Personal for a Top NYC Divorce Lawyer", BY PRANAY GUPTE, May 17,
2005, the New York Sun,
Source of these stats is unclear -- they may come from the lawyer being
interviewed, Bernard Clair.
The article is good reading for anyone interested in family law.

There's also a report on the public costs of divorce, showing that divorce costs the U.S. $33.3 billion per year.

Family Collapse could lead to increased social costs

Marital problems are associated with decreased work productivity,
especially for men (e.g., Forthofer, Markman, Cox, Stanley, & Kessler,
-- From a September 25, 1998 posting on the Smart Marriages Archive, probably by Scott Stanley

"In Utah, divorce and its financial stresses account for 75 percent to 80
percent of the people on welfare rolls. And with a 1994 divorce rate of
4.7 per 1,000 - slightly higher than the national average - Leavitt notes
that a huge number of abuse cases arise from dysfunctional families."
-- From a story on the Utah Governor's marriage conference posted on the Smart Marriages Archive

*Divorce bill will help families, save state money
Atlanta Journal Constitution (subscription) - GA,USA
Divorce bill will help families, save state money
Published on: 03/08/05
Government is spending close to $1 billion a year attempting to alleviate
the suffering and problems associated with divorce. In fact, nearly every
social program dollar Georgia spends is directly related to a need that was
created by broken families.

"... When marriages break apart, or fail to form in the first place, there is
a heavy human cost, but in Arizona, taxpayers are also paying through the
nose to government for things like child support enforcement ($37.7 million in
FY 1998), domestic violence programs ($9.7 million for FY 1998), child abuse
and neglect ($113.4 million for FY 1998) not to mention welfare benefits to mothers who are dependent due to divorce and court system costs. If we can reduce the divorce rate in any measurable fashion, it will save the taxpayers substantial dollars.
"I have been accused of promoting greater government involvement in
people's lives, when in reality I am trying to reduce government involvement.
Anyone having gone through a nasty divorce knows that government (through the
courts) dictates how much child support will be paid, when the
non-custodial parent may see his or her own children, and even whether or not the
custodial parent may move to another state! That, my friend, is government
control. Getting divorced or having children out-of-wedlock can be sure
ways to insure that government is in your life in a big way. ...
"In fact, Government has already spent money researching the problem of
family dysfunction, and now the information should be put to use to
develop policies that reduce family breakdown."
From "MY TURN -- SMART MARRIAGES MAKE SENSE" by Representative Mark Anderson, posted on the Smart Marriages Archive

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Originally posted and maintained by Americans for Divorce Reform; now maintained by John Crouch. You can call me at (703) 528-6700 or e-mail me through my law office's web site.