Divorce Statistics

Who initiates the Divorce?

The National Center for Health Statistics reports that from 1975 to 1988 in the US, in families with children present, wives file for divorce in approximately two-thirds of cases. In 1975, 71.4% of the cases were filed by women, and in 1988, 65% were filed by women.[4]

According to a study published in the American Law and Economics Review, women currently file slightly more than two-thirds of divorce cases in the US.[5] There is some variation among states, and the numbers have also varied over time, with about 60% of filings by women in most of the 19th century, and over 70% by women in some states just after no-fault divorce was introduced, according to the paper.


In their study titled “Child Custody Policies and Divorce Rates in the US,” Kuhn and Guidubaldi find it reasonable to conclude that women anticipate advantages to being single, rather than remaining married.[6]

When women anticipate a clear gender bias in the courts regarding custody, they expect to be the primary residential parent for the children and recipient of the resulting financial child support, maintaining the marital residence, receiving half of all marital property, and gaining total freedom to establish new social relationships. In their detailed analysis of divorce rates, Kuhn and Guidubaldi conclude that acceptance of joint physical custody may reduce divorce. States whose family law policies, statutes, or judicial practice encourage joint custody have shown a greater decline in their divorce rates than those that favor sole custody.

Rates of Divorce

“Rate of divorce” usually refers the number of divorces that occur in the population during a given period. However it is also used in common parlance to refer to the likelihood of a given marriage ending in divorce (as opposed to the death of a spouse).  A common myth is that half all marriages in the United States end in divorce. In reality this is impossible to measure accurately and this myth is based on an misinterpretation of data stating that, in any given year, the number of marriages is about twice the number of divorces. But those divorces are not necessarily of marriages made in the same year, but could have occurred at any time, rendering this statistic irrelevant to marital outcome.[7]

More reliable statistics are available that measure the percentage of marriages that end in divorce within 10 years. One data set based on age of the bride indicates that the rate is 48% for people under 18, 40% for ages 18-19, 29% for 20-24, and 24% for 25 and older.[8]

Other variables that either negatively or positively affect rates of divorce include[8]:

  • race/ethnicity
  • importance of religion to the couple
  • divorce in family of origin
  • if the woman has a history of forcible rape by a man before the marriage
  • Timing of the first birth of any children (before marriage, within 7 months, after 7 months, or never)
  • If one spouse has Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • If both spouses are the same race/ethnicity

Return to NC Divorce Laws


The Source of the information contained on this page is Wikipedia.org, accessed on April 3, 2010.

4.  “Advance Report of Final Divorce Statistics, 1988” (PDF). Monthly Vital Statistice Report 39 (12 (supplement 2)). 1991-05-21. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/mvsr/supp/mv39_12s2.pdf.

5.  Brinig, Margaret; Douglas W. Allen (2000). “These Boots Are Made for Walking: Why Most Divorce Filers are Women”. American Law and Economics Review 2 (1): 126–129.

6.  Kuhn, Richard; John Guidubaldi (1997-10-23). “Child Custody Policies and Divorce Rates in the US”. 11th Annual Conference of the Children’s Rights Council. http://www.deltabravo.net/custody/divrates.php. Retrieved 2006-09-18.

7.  “Fifty Percent of American Marriages End in Divorce-Fiction!”. http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/d/divorce.htm. Retrieved 26 February 2010.

8. a bCohabitation, marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the United States. Hyattsville, Md.: Dept. of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, national Center for Health Statistics. 2002. pp. 17-18. ISBN 0-8406-0582-X.

Further reading

  • Gallagher, Maggie. “The Abolition of Marriage.” Regnery Publishing, 1996. ISBN 0-89526-464-1.
  • Haltzman, Scott. Secrets of Happily Married Men: Eight Ways to Win Your Wife’s Heart Forever. John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2005 ISBN 0787979597.
  • Lester, David. “Time-Series Versus Regional Correlates of Rates of Personal Violence.” Death Studies 1993: 529-534.
  • McLanahan, Sara and Gary Sandefur. Growing Up with a Single Parent; What Hurts, What Helps. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994: 82.
  • Mercer, Diana and Marsha Kline Pruett. Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce. Fireside, 2001. ISBN 0-684-87068-1 and ISBN 978-0684870687.
  • Morowitz, Harold J. “Hiding in the Hammond Report.” Hospital Practice August 1975; 39.
  • U.S. Bureau of the Census. Marriage and Divorce. General US survey information. [3]