Why Divorce Rates Increased


Part of the Divorce Statistics Collection, from Americans for Divorce Reform
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Note: Statistics on what happened, as opposed to why divorce rates increased, are now on a separate page

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.

Also see the closely related subject of Correlations of Divorce rates with other factors (e.g. religion, occupation, race, region)

U. Okla. Study Shows No-fault Law is what Increased Divorce
Statistics on divorce rates and litigation before the no-fault revolution
Study showing lower divorce rates in joint custody presumption states -- [summary below]
Italy has Europe's lowest divorce rate; 3-yr waiting period credited. x
Study linking the number of psychologists and psychiatrists with divorce rates x
Divorce rate drops in Chicago area; social and economic costs cited x
Marital Conflict, Discord Not A Top Indicator For Divorce: Less than 1/3 have frequent conflict before divorce x
China: Why divorce rose, why reforms proposed




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Chandigarh, Newsline
Friday, November 04, 2005
http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=155513
Matrimonial malaise: Till divorce do us part
Raghav Ohri
Chandigarh, November 3: And more marriages than ever before are ending in divorce in the city.

In 1997, only 216 cases of divorce were filed by residents in the district courts here; in the fifth year of the new millennium, the number will reach 900 and may just touch a thousand.

The jump in the number of divorces has come recently, with statistics showing that the number has doubled in the last three years alone.

One reason is that divorces...are easier to make. ... With new amendments being made in the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA), seeking a divorce has become simpler. ... The latest amendment was made in 2003. It allowed a petitioner to seek divorce from the place where he/she last lived, unlike earlier when divorce had to be sought either from the place where the couple last lived together or the place where the wedding took place.
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"No-fault divorce caused already-climbing divorce rates to jump further. As the preceding statistics reveal, divorce rates in America zoomed to new heights under no-fault. Though not all of the increase can be attributed exclusively to the changes in the law, a significant portion can. In a 1989 study by Justec Research in Virginia on the effects of no-fault divorce in 38 states, the findings revealed "very strong evidence" that no-fault increased divorce in eight states and "some lesser evidence" for increases in eight more. The study's author, lawyer and sociologist Thomas B. Marvell, concludes that "on the average, the no-fault laws increased divorces by some 20 to 25 percent." In none of the states studied did no-fault decrease divorce."
Brian Willats, Breaking Up is Easy To Do, available from Michigan Family Forum, citing Thomas B. Marvell, "Divorce Rates and the Fault Requirement," Law and Society Review 23 (1989), p. 544. Cited in Bryce J. Christensen, "Taking Stock: Assessing Twenty Years of 'No Fault' Divorce", The Family In America, September 1991 , p. 4.

Family scholars debate whether no-fault regimes have influenced rates of divorce at all. However, a recent analysis has suggested that "for most of the 32 states that implemented no-fault divorce during the divorce boom (1965-1974)our resultssupport the interpretation that no-fault laws resulted in a substantial number of divorces that would not have occurred otherwise."
-- Sean E. Brotherson and Jeffrey B. Teichert, "Value of the Law in Shaping Social Perspectives on Marriage", 3 U. of Utah Jnl. L. & Fam. Stud. 23, at 47, citing Joseph Lee Rodgers, et al., "Did No-Fault Divorce Legislation Matter? Definitely Yes and Sometimes No," 61 J. Marriage & Fam. 803, 804 (1999).

"One researcher estimated the impact of no-fault divorce legislation may have accelerated state divorce rates upward by twenty to twenty-five percent."
-- Sean E. Brotherson and Jeffrey B. Teichert, "Value of the Law in Shaping Social Perspectives on Marriage", 3 U. of Utah Jnl. L. & Fam. Stud. 23, at 47, citing Thomas B. Marvell, "Divorce Rates and the Fault Requirement", 23 L. & Soc'y Rev. 543, 544 (1989).

"It is likely that some of this [increase in divorce ca. 1965-85] was due to a shift in the normative cultural message accompanying changes in the law of divorce. Kevin Andrews, a member of the Australian Parliament, has written:
'Under previous legislation, the concept of fault determined the outcome of the divorce application. In cultural terms, partners who walked away from a marriage or caused their spouse to leave risked the consequence of social opprobrium. The introduction of unilateral no-fault divorce law changed this cultural norm, allowing partners to leave a marriage on the premise that a short period of separation constitutes the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship. Hence society rightly concludes today the spouses can leave a marriage at will.' -- Sean E. Brotherson and Jeffrey B. Teichert, "Value of the Law in Shaping Social Perspectives on Marriage", 3 U. of Utah Jnl. L. & Fam. Stud. 23, at 47, citing Kevin Andrews & Margaret Andrews, Rebuilding a Culture of Marriage, 18 Australian Fam at 20, 29 (1997).


"After falling for several years the [Canadian divorce rate reached] an all-time high following passage of the Divorce Act of 1985, which allows divorce after one year's separation, regardless of the cause."
The Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher p. 148, citing Gertrude Schaffner Goldenberg, "Canada: Bordering on the Feminization of Poverty," in The Feminization of Poverty: Only in America, ed. Gertrude Schaffner Goldenberg and Eleanor Kremen (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990), 77.

"Two recent studies independently concluded that the effects of the new divorce laws (no-fault) have increased the divorce rate in some jurisdictions 20 to 25 percent."
The Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher p. 148, citing Thomas B. Marvell, "Divorce Rates and the Fault Requirement," Law and Society Review 23 (1989): 557. Martin Zelder, "The Economic Analysis of the Effect of No-Fault Divorce Law on the Divorce Rate," Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy  16, No. 1: 241ff.

"No-fault divorce increased the divorce rate among certain families with children, in particular."
The Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher p. 148, citing Martin Zelder, "The Economic Analysis of the Effect of No-Fault Divorce Law on the Divorce Rate," Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy  16, No. 1: 241ff.

States with higher levels of joint custody awards in 1989 and 1990 "have shown significantly greater declines in divorces in the following years through 1995, compared with other
states." These conclusions are based on 19 states for which appropriate
data were available, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well as
Montana and Nebraska. Overall, divorce rates declined nearly four times faster in high-joint
custody states, compared with states where joint custody is relatively
rare. One big reason is that joint custody "removes the capacity for one
spouse to hurt the other by denying participation in raising the
children." From CMFCE summary of Joint Custody/Divorce Rate Study x

"Eighty percent of the divorces in this country are unilateral, rather than truly mutual, decisions."
Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr. and Andrew J. Cherlin, Divided Families: What happens to Children When Parents Part (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991), 22. Cited on page 9 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

"Evaluating the effect of law on divorce rates turned out to be tricky. Not only do state
statutes vary, but different states changed different aspects of divorce law.
Some states merely added no-fault to other grounds for divorce. Others
abolished fault altogether. Still others cut waiting periods. ... Many of these earlier studies assumed all the changes lumped under the no-fault rubric had the same effect on divorce rates. Moreover, in many cases states officially passed no-fault laws only after judges had already
effectively changed the law to ease divorce. In these cases, statutory changes
merely codified what the common law practice already was. To add to the
confusion, many other states were suddenly labeled "no-fault" states not
because the law had changed but because they were added to a catalog of no-
fault jurisdictions assembled for a 1974 listing in the influential Family Law
Quarterly. Since early researchers sometimes relied on this listing as
definitive evidence of when states adopted no-fault (when in fact the law had
not changed or had changed much earlier), they concluded (naturally but
wrongly) that the law had no effect on the divorce rate.
Several recent studies, however, confirm what common sense suggests: Changes
in divorce law did increase the divorce rate. No-fault divorce laws may
account for somewhere between 15 and 25 percent of the increase in divorce
that took place in the seventies. ... While there are many social and economic factors conspiring to
weaken our marriages, no-fault divorce laws have pushed us over the edge ..."
Gallagher in "End No-Fault Divorce?" (Maggie Gallagher debates Barbara Dafoe Whitehead) in First Things 75 (August/September 1997)

Some studies on this issue:
Amato,Paul R. and Joan G Gilbreth, 1999: Nonresident Fathers
and Children's Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis, Journal of
Marriage and the Family 61: 557-573.

Amato, Paul R. and Bruce Keith, 1991: Parental Divorce and Adult
Well-being: A Meta-Analysis, Journal of Marriage and the Family 53: 43-58.

Karney, Benjamin R. and Thomas N. Bradbury, 1995: The
Longitudinal Course of Marital Quality and Stability: A Review of
Theory, Method and Research, Psychological Bulletin 118: 3-34.

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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.