Divorce in the US: Where Do the Numbers Stand
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 ibisworld.com, 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.
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.
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.
Divorce can be a Costly Affair
According to research by Nolo.com, 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