Although the “half of all marriages end in divorce” claim has been debunked, it’s still a commonly cited statistic. But what are the real divorce stats? Check them out below. (Note that most of the data below come from government sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of the Census and may be a few years old and incomplete. Click on each study to read more.)
Yes, we’re seeing fewer divorces overall—but fewer marriages, too
In the 10 years since 2002, the divorce rate per 1,000 people dropped from 3.9 to 3.4. Good news, right? Maybe, but at the same time, the marriage rate per 1,000 people dropped from 8 to 6.8. So it’s a bit hard to say. (CDC)
The Northeast has some of the lowest divorce rates in the nation
As a region, the Midwest sees the fewest divorces; this is, perhaps, not too surprising considering the region’s reputation for traditional family values. Several Midwestern states have the lowest divorce rate per 1,000 people, including Illinois (2.6), Iowa (2.4), North Dakota (2.7), and Wisconsin (2.9). States in the Northeast, however, like New Jersey (2.9) and New York (2.9), receive honorable mentions for low regional divorce rates. (CDC/NCHS)
Nevada is closing the gap on divorce rates
Due to its relaxed divorce laws, Nevada was known throughout much of the 20th century as the place to get a divorce done quickly and discreetly. It’s a community property state, meaning that bickering over who gets what is curtailed, offers no-fault divorce, and has a lax residency requirement that stipulates that one spouse reside in the state for just six weeks before filing. It’s unsurprising, then, that Nevada has had the highest divorce rate for a long time. However, although Nevada still takes the lead, its divorce rate is becoming more in line with that of other states. In 1990, Nevada’s divorce rate was 11.4 per 1,000, and the state with the next-highest rate was Oklahoma, with 7.7. In 2012, Nevada’s divorce rate had dropped to 5.5 per 1,000, and the state with the next-highest rate was Arkansas at 5.3. (All states for which there are data available in this time frame saw a drop in divorce rates.) (CDC/NCHS)
A contested divorce can cost as much as a new Toyota Corolla, and that’s if you’re lucky
The government doesn’t keep tabs on this statistic, but Forbes claims a contested divorce will cost about $20,000 on average, and costs can range from $3,500 to beyond $100,000. These numbers include filing fees and lawyers’ fees, real estate costs, therapy, and more. They do not, however, include assets lost in a settlement, which can also be substantial. For a simple, uncontested divorce, some couples spend less than $500 in legal fees.
Second marriages that end in divorce are likely to last just as long as first marriages that end in divorce
Both last, on average, around 8 years. (Census)
Trends to Watch
When the next set of data on marriage and divorce comes out, look for information on the following:
Is the rate of divorce among older couples increasing?
Couples like Al and Tipper Gore, who announced their divorce in 2010, seem to be part of a trend of divorcing baby boomers. Is this a legitimate long-term trend or a short-lived craze?
Will divorce stats of same-sex couples mirror those of hetero couples?
With same-sex marriage now legal in the majority of states, it will be interesting to see if same-sex couple exhibit different patterns of divorce.