Divorce in America is almost as old as the country itself. 

The first recorded divorce in America was granted to Mrs. James Luxford in 1639 in Massachusetts. The woman in question had discovered her husband was already married and was granted her divorce on the grounds of bigamy. As a side note, Mr. Luxford was banished from the colonies and forced to return to England while Mrs. Luxford was awarded all of their property.

The Numbers Game

From such a simple start in 1639, divorce in America has grown to being close to the 50% mark…almost half of all marriages end in divorce. This is great news for family law attorneys since this increase sparked much growth fior these practices. The term divorce rate has gone beyond the actual number of divorces to become a gauge of sorts of the probable number of divorces. There are statistical numbers that show the probability of a marriage ending in divorce is between 40% and 50%. Studies also show that the rate of divorce has been dropping over the last few decades and more marriages are lasting longer now than they did in the 1990’s.

On the one hand, we find that divorce is approaching the 50% mark where half of all marriages fail while the other hand shows the rate dropping. How can this be? In statistical terms, information is gleaned from several different agencies. It comes from the Center for Disease Controls, the U.S. Census Bureau, The National Center for Health Statistics and the independent Americans for Divorce Reform among others. In studying divorce the figures we see that the number of divorces climbs while the rate of divorce drops.

What Feeds Divorce?

One reason is that statistically speaking, more marriages last 15 years or more now. In the 1990’s the average length of marriage was just10 years. So statistically speaking the divorce rate has dropped. Another contributor to this misleading statistic is that more and more Americans are simply living together without the formality of marriage. Several other variables are factored into the mix that may affect rates of divorce.

  • Race or ethnicity plays a part in the rates. In a study conducted in 2008 by J. L. Bratter and R. B. King on behalf of the Education Resources Information Center, results showed that interracial couples have a higher divorce probability.
  • Religion and its importance play a role. In 1999 the Barna Research Group study showed 11% of the adult population to be currently divorced and 25% to have had at least one divorce in their lifetime. They further showed that the divorce rate among conservative Christians to be higher than that of Atheists and Agnostics.
  • Divorce in your family of origin. Simply put, if your parents divorced then you have a higher chance of divorce. In his book Understanding the Cycle of Divorce, Nicholas Wolfinger found that children of divorced marriages were almost 40% more likely to have their own divorce.
  • Other factors included pre-marriage sexual abuse, the timing of the birth of children, medical conditions and economic factors. Arguments about money have a direct input to divorce percentages.

And Now?

So is marriage facing a doomed future? Every day the image of marriage is redefined. However, the question now becomes, is it needed? Is marriage necessary for modern society? Is it a product of religious beliefs or a needed social platform?

As is the case with the diversity of statistics, the evaluation of the future of marriage is still up for grabs. Statistically speaking, more marriages will end in divorce but how many people in the future will actually marry? The choice and outcome are purely statistical.