Legally granted divorce has been around for centuries, but it is by no means a static concept. Just as most everything in life and the law, divorce has changed with the times and will continue to do so.
Read on for three of the most significant, recent trends in divorce.
1. Divorce rate is declining
One of the most commonly quoted divorce statistics claims that half of all marriages end in divorce; although it makes for a cute quip, there’s simply no data to back up this statistic. The same can be said for the idea that divorce is more prevalent than ever. Indeed, contrary to popular belief, the divorce rate in the United States is declining.
After peaking in 1980 with 22.6 divorces per 1,000 married women, aged 15 and older in the U.S., the rate has been going down ever since. In 2009, there were 16.9 divorces per 1,000 married women.
So what does that mean?
Although diehard romantics might like to believe it signifies that more married couples are staying together for the long haul, what’s really happening is that there are fewer marriages overall as more couples are choosing to live together instead of get married. Fewer marriages translate into fewer opportunities to get divorced—and that equals declining divorce rates.
2. 'Gray divorce' is on the rise
Although the overall divorce rate is declining, one particular age group is seeing a dramatic rise in marital breakdowns—the 50-and-over crowd. The phenomenon even has a name to describe it: “the gray divorce revolution.”
According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, which coined the term, “[t]he divorce rate among adults ages 50 and older doubled between 1990 and 2010.” Moreover, one in four people getting divorced these days is 50 or older.
One possible explanation for the increase in divorce in older couples is the fact that there are simply so many baby boomers out there. Another factor could be that second and subsequent marriages have a higher divorce rate than first marriages—and those who have had several marriages are often older in general.
Interestingly, the rise in grey divorce has spawned another new divorce-related trend: programs such as the Rebuilding Seminar in Boulder, Colorado for the newly single/recently uncoupled. The 10-week seminar provides a place for such people to grieve the end of their marriages alongside therapists as well as others in similar situations.
3. Mandatory divorce classes
While state laws vary greatly regarding divorce from no-fault provisions to “cooling off” waiting periods, nearly all states now offer courses or seminars to divorcing couples, especially those with children, according to the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.
In many states, attendance is mandatory before a court will grant the divorce of parents in particular. As recently as February of this year, the Alabama legislature was considering a law that would require couples with children younger than 16 to complete a four-hour class intended to make parents aware of issues that may affect their children related to the separation.
Such classes may include meetings with a therapist, watching videos, or role-playing.
The movement now may be toward requiring such courses even earlier in the separation process in the hopes that couples will avoid divorce altogether. A Utah legislator, for example, has introduced a bill that would require couples to participate in a divorce class thirty days before filing for divorce. Rep. Jim Nielson’s bill does allow for exemptions for domestic violence and for those who had already separated, taken the class, gotten back together, and then decided on divorce.
If you are considering divorce and you and your partner agree on the terms, you may be able to file an uncontested online divorce. Otherwise, you can get legal advice and legal representation through LegalZoom's Personal Legal Plan.