A new study conducted by Avvo shows that some longstanding assumptions and persistent stereotypes about divorce are being challenged by a shift in cultural values regarding long-term relationships.
The study, conducted in California, uncovered data showing that many no longer view divorce as a failure, or a result of not “trying hard enough,” nor do they see marriage as something that is necessarily supposed to last a lifetime. A number of respondents also questioned the negative impact of divorce on children, with many seeing benefits to ending an unhappy relationship rather than staying together for the kids. And there’s especially good news for divorced singles: a strong majority of Californians polled actually prefer dating divorced people to those who have never been married.
Busted myth #1: If you get divorced, people will see you as a failure
One of the questions the survey asked was whether respondents thought all marriages were “meant to last,” which, some would say, has traditionally been one of marriage’s defining characteristics. Yet nearly half (45%) said they didn’t believe that was true. Moreover, only one in four (27%) Californians were willing to agree that people who get divorced “don’t try hard enough to make the marriage work.” That’s a lot of people who appear to be rethinking fundamental tenants of the institution.
Furthermore, depending on their gender, some Californians actually see the end of a marriage as a good thing. Only 35% of the women polled agreed that divorce is “a type of failure,” and nearly half (46%) believe it “opens up opportunities for a better life.” Mirroring the results of a national survey conducted by Avvo, the men of California aren’t as likely to think positively about divorce, with more seeing marriage as a failure (43%) and only 38% seeing the opportunities women see. Still, both genders seem at least open to the possibility that divorce isn’t the end of the world.
There is one group of people who aren’t too keen on divorce: those who are currently married. While over half of unmarried people (51%) said that marriages “aren’t all meant to last,” only 39% of married people agreed. And a mere 32% of the married group saw divorce as an opportunity for something better (compared to 52% of unmarried people). Still, that 32% represents a lot of married folks—people with a vested interest (presumably!) in marriage—who believe that divorce can be a good thing.
Busted myth #2: People will think you’re a bad parent if you have kids and get a divorce
An assumption that often goes unquestioned is that divorce is rough on children. Untold numbers of married couples have stayed together solely out of their concern for the wellbeing and happiness of their kids. But Californians seem willing to entertain other possibilities. Only 25% were willing to say, for instance, that “divorce ruins children no matter what,” with 70% believing divorce is better for kids than seeing their parents together and unhappy.
Some were willing to question this myth more than others. Nearly 4 in 5 women (79%) believe getting divorced is better than letting children grow up with married, but unhappy, parents; however, only 59% of men said the same. Fewer married people than unmarried say that divorce is better than staying together for the kids’ sake (65% to 75%), and are more likely than any other group to answer yes to the “divorce ruins children no matter what” question (22%). But clearly, many no longer believe that having kids absolutely means you have to stay married.
Busted myth # 3: If you’re divorced, you’ll have a harder time getting a date than if you weren’t
Given that societal norms have associated divorce with failure, or not being able to handle commitment, etc., divorced folks in the Golden State may once have found it tough in the dating world. That is clearly no longer the case. Only 23% of Californians say they’re more worried about dating someone who’s divorced than someone who’s never been married (42% suggest that they’d worry more about dating someone who’s never been married). Those percentages stayed consistent regardless of gender, so whether you’re a divorced male or a divorced female, your odds of finding a date in California seem solid.
As you might suspect, age is a factor. A larger proportion of respondents aged 25-34 (33%) are more worried about dating a divorced person than someone who’s never been married; 20% of Californians 35-55 agree. Younger or older, the idea that being divorced is seen negatively, or as a black mark on your OK Cupid profile, does not appear to be true.
NOT busted myth: The process of divorce in California is hard (but it doesn’t have to be)
There is one myth that the survey definitely did not bust: nobody thinks getting divorced in California is fun. Survey respondents overwhelmingly gave more weight to words like “stress” and “confusion” over ones like “certainty” and “ease” when describing the divorce process.
Another word they tend to think of is “expensive”: for an uncontested divorce with no kids, Californians expect to pay, on average, $5,000, and it only goes up from there. An uncontested divorce with kids was estimated to be $7,500, and all the way to $25,000 for a contested one.
But if you are considering a divorce, there are ways to avoid some of that cost and ease some of the anxiety. You can go online and ask questions for free, getting answers from highly-rated divorce attorneys in your area, or even get tips and information on divorce delivered to your inbox. The most important step, however, is to do everything you can to avoid having to contest your divorce. This can be done perhaps more easily than you think, and will save you unnecessary emotional turmoil, along with a lot of money.
If you do manage to have an uncontested divorce, there are a number of supposed shortcuts to be found on the internet, which usually end up charging you for forms you can download for free. They also don’t actually offer help from an attorney, which often ends up being crucial even when you and your soon-to-be-ex agree on most everything.
Fortunately, there are services that can help guide you through the entire process, which include not only the forms you’ll need and information on how to fill them out, but also the assistance of a divorce attorney who can review everything, help keep things moving, and guide you through the entire process from start to finish. And you’ll pay a lot less than you might think; filing for uncontested divorce can be done for $995, and an uncontested divorce with kids for $1995.
As the survey shows, more and more people are changing their minds about what divorce means and seeing the benefits of being able to move on. But while going through it is never easy, it doesn’t have to be impossible either.