Inside Divorce: Common Reasons People File For Divorce

Today, it’s common knowledge that about half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce.

Generally speaking, people who file for divorce and divorce counselors tend to cite many of the same reasons for why marriages end. These often include:

  • Poor communication or conflict resolution skills: When a couple is unable to communicate or work out small problems, those problems can escalate quickly. On a grand scale, such a pattern can lead to divorce.
  • Financial problems: Worrying and arguing about money can be financially and emotionally draining. Many couples find that money problems contribute to their decision to divorce.
  • Insufficient commitment to the marriage: Marriage takes work. When one or both spouses do not invest sufficient effort, the marriage can fail.
  • Drastically changed priorities: If one spouse evolves or changes significantly and the other spouse does not and does not support the change, they may choose to divorce.
  • Infidelity: This usually constitutes breaking marriage vows.
  • Addictions or substance abuse: These can drive divisions between any family members, spouses included.
  • Emotional, sexual, or physical abuse: An unhealthy physical, sexual, or emotional environment within a marriage leads some couples to end it.

But the likelihood of any particular couple of filing for divorce may be higher or lower than 50 percent, depending on a number of other factors.

Here’s a closer look at some common reasons people file for divorce, as well as factors that contribute to higher divorce rates.

Age at Marriage and Likelihood of Divorce

A 2002 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the age at which women marry can affect their likelihood of filing for divorce. Specifically:

  • Women who marry before 18 have a 48 percent chance of divorcing within 10 years.
  • Women between 18 and 19 when they marry have a 40 percent chance of divorcing within 10 years.
  • Women between 20 and 24 have a 29 percent chance of divorcing within 10 years.
  • Women aged 25 and older when they marry have a 24 percent chance of divorcing within 10 years.

Beliefs, Family History and Likelihood of Divorce

The same CDC study found that many factors that affect a couple’s likelihood of divorcing are beyond the control of both spouses. These factors include:

  • Importance of religion to spouses: The study suggests that couples who consider their religion very important have a slightly lower divorce rate than those who consider religion “somewhat important” or “not important.”
  • Divorce in family history: Those who come from families with divorced parents may be up to twice as likely to divorce as those with married parents.
  • Children: Disagreements about whether or not to have children, as well as having children within seven months of getting married, can lead to higher divorce rates.
  • Mood and anxiety disorders: When either spouse suffers from General Anxiety Disorder or a similar disruption of moods, the likelihood that the couple will divorce rises.
  • History of sexual abuse: Marriages in which a woman has experienced sexual abuse or rape may be more likely to end in divorce than those in which a woman was never sexually abused.
  • Age differences: Couples in which the man is nine or more years older or two or more years younger than the woman have higher rates of divorce than those in which the spouses are closer in age.

Divorce Filing Statistics

Because of differences in state and even county law across the U.S., it’s difficult to accurately establish what percentage of people file for divorce for any one reason.

Still, informal surveys and studies of specific areas of divorce in the U.S. give a general picture of why people choose to file for divorce.

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