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Explaining the Rise and Fall of Divorce Rates in the U.S.

Posted on in Divorce

Explaining the Rise and Fall of Divorce Rates in the U.S.People who claim that divorce rates are on the rise in the U.S. will commonly say that half of all marriages end in divorce. The most amazing thing about this statistic is how frequently it is cited, despite it not having been accurate in more than 30 years. The U.S. divorce rate is believed to have reached its peak in 1980 at more than 50 percent, but the rate has steadily declined since then. The modern divorce rate is usually calculated as between 40 and 50 percent, with senior citizens being the only demographic for whom the divorce rate has consistently risen. However, it is accurate to say that the divorce rate is much higher than it was before 1970. There are several explanations for the sudden rise in the divorce rate and its gradual fall.

On the Rise

During the 1970s, the divorce rate rose to 50 percent after having been in the 20-percent range during the 1960s. A combination of factors lead to the divorce boom:

  • More states had passed no-fault divorce laws, which meant that spouses no longer had to give a reason for requesting a divorce;
  • Many states no longer required a long separation period before spouses could complete their divorces;
  • Women had gained enough ground in civil rights and economic equality that they could afford to live on their own;
  • Society was becoming more accepting of divorce and single parents; and
  • The purpose of marriage became more about finding happiness than making a practical arrangement. 

By the 1970s, divorce had become easier and more practical than ever before, and many spouses took advantage of this.

Steady Decline

The divorce rate has stabilized after the surge in the 1970s and early 1980s. Much of the decline has to do with how marriage has changed:

  • More people believe that marriage is not necessary for a long-term relationship, which means that those relationships end with a breakup instead of a divorce;
  • Younger generations are waiting longer to get married, which may mean that they are more stable and mature when they start their marriages; and
  • Advancements in marriage counseling may help some spouses settle their problems before deciding to divorce.

Need for Divorce

The fact that divorce rates remain higher than they were in the mid-20th century can be viewed as a positive. People are more capable of and confident in leaving an unhappy and unhealthy marriage than they were half a century ago. A Kane County divorce attorney at Goostree Law Group can explain how a divorce could help you in your situation. To schedule a free consultation, call 630-584-4800.


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