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Divorce in the US: Where Do the Numbers Stand

Updated on June 15, 2016
When Divorce is the Only Recourse
When Divorce is the Only Recourse

Divorce & Family Law in the US

Divorce may seem like the only option when a couple is unable to stay together in a marriage. As per an article from Utah State University, there are certain factors that make it more likely for a couple to divorce. These are young age, less education, less income, no religious affiliations, premarital childbearing and pregnancy, and parental divorce. Divorce leads to legal proceedings to end the marriage, and involves a lot of costs. There is a whole industry of family law that caters to issues such as divorce, custody, alimony and so on. According to, the family law industry had revenues of US$11 billion in 2015, with annual growth of 1.6% seen in the period 2010 to 2015. There are an estimated 63,490 family law outfits in the US, which employ 76,452 people.

US Divorce Statistics
US Divorce Statistics

The Incidence of Divorce in the US

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the marriage rate in the US is 6.8 per 1,000 total population, and the divorce rate is 3.6 per 1,000 total population, as per provisional 2011 data. However, this divorce rate is not truly representative, as it is calculated based on the total population, including adults and children. In fact, as an article on NY Times reports, it is not true that half of all marriages end in divorce, or that divorce rates are climbing. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s, and has been declining over the next three decades. Approximately 70% of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding cases where one spouse died), up from the proportion of 65% for the marriages that began in the 1970s and early 1980s. According to data from Justin Wolfers, an economist at the University of Michigan, if current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce.

Divorce in America
Divorce in America
Divorce & Family Law
Divorce & Family Law

Legal Options Available for Ending a Marriage

When a couple considers that it is time to end their marriage, they may not necessarily want a divorce. As an article by RuvoloLaw states, couples can opt for a divorce, an annulment or a separation. A divorce is basically the legal termination of a marriage by a court. A divorce does not require the consent of both spouses. Grounds for divorce include irreconcilable differences, the most commonly used by couples seeking divorce, adultery, extreme cruelty, and abandonment. An annulment is a dissolution of a marriage that was not lawful. It can be of two kinds, civil and religious. A religious annulment occurs when a church decides that the marriage was never lawful as per the laws of the church. A civil annulment can be sought under cases of bigamy, fraud, underage marriage, and lack of mental capacity. The main difference between a divorce and a civil annulment is that the annulment voids the marriage as if it never existed. A separation means that the marriage is not legally over, but that the spouses separate their living arrangements. A separation requires the consent of both the spouses.

Taking the Legal Route to Divorce
Taking the Legal Route to Divorce
The Cost of Divorce
The Cost of Divorce

Divorce can be a Costly Affair

According to research by, the national average fee that people pay their divorce lawyer is US$250 per hour. The fee can range from as low as US$50 per hour to as high as USD 650 per hour, but most people end up paying between US$150 an hour and US$350 an hour. The average total cost of a divorce is US$15,500. According an article on Huffington Post, the following is the breakdown of the costs of a divorce.

a) Attorney’s fees (which vary by state)

b) Court costs (which also vary by state)

c) Costs for parent education classes

d) Fees for early neutral evaluations

e) Mediation cost

Life After Divorce
Life After Divorce


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    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 22 months ago

      Human beings make mistakes!

      This also applies when it comes to selecting boyfriends/girlfriends, lovers, and spouses. Ultimately a divorce is a public admission that a mistake was made the "mate selection" area of one's life!

      Ideally the goal is to choose a mate who shares your same values, wants the same things for the relationship that you do, naturally agrees with you on how to obtain those things, and last but not least have a mutual depth of love and desire for one another.

      There numerous reasons why we choose the wrong mate.

      Sometimes it's because we have yet to figure out who (we) are let alone what we want and need in a mate for life!

      We allow "impulsive connections" and "happenstance" to dictate our relationship choices. That's the equivalent of going shopping without a list!

      Like attracts like and opposites attract divorce attorneys!

      Compatibility trumps Compromise in most relationships.

      People often say "Marriage is hard work." When in truth the "hard work" is in finding the "right mate" for oneself!

      The top three reasons for divorce in my opinion are:

      1. Someone committed a "deal breaker" in the eyes of the other.

      (This might entail cheating, verbal/physical abuse, criminal behavior, alcoholic/drug addict, gambling issues, severely financial irresponsible..)

      2. The realization that you no longer want the same things out of life.

      (Priorities change, one person wants children and the other person changed their mind and doesn't want them, career opportunities require relocating to a place where their spouse doesn't want to live...etc)

      3. Sometimes people just "fall out of love" over time.

      (What they considered to be "ideal mate" material at age 25 isn't what they want at age 45. Oftentimes there is a major reduction in intimacy, sex, and romance. One person is fine with it and the other person needs it and has decided they're not going to settle for being appeased temporarily by someone who simply has different desires. In other instances couples put all of their energy into raising their children and when they move out they are like strangers/roommates.)

      As you noted there is a whole industry dedicated to serving the needs of couples looking to get divorced. There is also another industry dedicated to "saving marriages" with couples therapy, workshops, and books...etc

      It's unfortunate that the only way we measure the success of marriage is how long it lasts. In reality there are probably millions of "emotionally divorced" couples in sexless marriages, living separate lives in the same house or in different houses who never bothered to file for divorce.

      People see they've been together for 40 years and want to know "what is their secret" for a lasting marriage? .......Settling!

      Anyone can make up their mind that no matter how their spouse treats them, cheats, abuses them, or disappears for stretches at a time that they will never file for divorce.

      It's easier to continue to live in a known existence than it is to step out into an unknown future. Every ending is a new beginning!

      “Some people think that it’s holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it’s letting go.” — unknown