Marriage and Divorce Statistics in the United States
Welcome to Griffiths Law P.C. Searching the internet to learn about marriage and divorce trends? You are not alone. We have consolidated the research into one convenient place. Keep reading to learn about marriage and divorce rates across the nation.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention compiles statistics concerning marriage and divorce in the United States. Most statistics that you will see on the internet are derived from the CDC’s numbers. Marriage and divorce rates are expressed in the number of marriages or divorces per 1,000 population per year. The term “per 1,000 population” means occurrences per 1,000 people, including married and unmarried people, children, and adults. The CDC’s most recent statistics are from 2021.
The average marriage rate across the United States was 8.2 marriages per 1,000 population in 2001. The rate fell to 6.1 in 2019 and 5.1 in 2020, then rose to 6 in 2021 as Covid restrictions lifted. The rate in Colorado was 8.2 in 2001, then 6.7 in 2020, rising to 7.4 in 2021. Nevada has the highest marriage rate in the country, with a rate of 69.6 in 2001 that eventually fell to nearly a third of that to 21 in 2020 and rose to 26.2 in 2021. Hawaii comes in at a distant second, with a rate of 19.6 in 2001, falling to 7.4 in 2020, and then rising to 12.8 in 2021. In the last 30 years, Nevada had the highest marriage rate of 99 in 1990. Louisiana has the lowest marriage rate in the country at 4.4 in 2021. Destination weddings certainly account for the high marriage rates in Nevada and Hawaii, with couples eloping to Las Vegas for drive-through weddings (starting at $89) or saying “I do” to a dreamy beach wedding in Hawaii.
The average age at first marriage has risen significantly in the last 75 years. In 1947, men’s median age at first marriage was 23.7 while women on average were 20.5 years old. In 2019, men’s median age at first marriage was 29.8 while women on average were 28 years old.
We have all heard that 50% of marriages end in divorce. The source of that figure is impossible to track down. One statistic comes close, with qualifications. According to the Center for Disease Control, 53% of first marriages of more than 20 years of duration among women ages 15-44 ended, either by separation, divorce, or death.
Several states do not report divorce statistics, but among those that do, the average divorce rate in 2000 was 4 divorces per 1,000 population for that year. The rate fell to 2.5 per population in 2021. If you recall, “per 1,000 population” means occurrences per 1,000 people, including married and unmarried people, children, and adults, so that figure would be lower if we only considered married people.
Before other states modernized their divorce laws, the availability of “quickie divorces” made Nevada a divorce-tourism destination. In 1990, Nevada’s divorce rate of 11.4 was the nation’s highest in the last 30 years. But no-fault divorce has become the norm in most states, including Colorado, meaning that an unhappy husband or wife can obtain a divorce without proving that a spouse’s legal wrongdoing ended the marriage. For that reason, more parties are seeking divorce in their home states rather than travelling to Nevada. Nevada’s divorce rate fell to just 3 in 2020, rising to 4.2 in 2021. Colorado’s rate was 5.5 in 1990, falling to 2.9 in 2020, and rising slightly to 3 in 2021. Massachusetts has the nation’s lowest divorce rate at 1 in 2021. Oklahoma had the nation’s highest rate at 3.8 in 2021. States that tend to have higher divorce rates also tend to have lower average incomes, and the reverse is true as well.
If you are contemplating marriage but worried about divorce, you should know that while statistics are interesting because they show trends in the population, statistics cannot predict whether your marriage will work for you. Please talk to one of our lawyers about steps you can take to protect your finances in case of divorce. Having a well-written premarital agreement makes divorce easier and less expensive.
Divorces in Colorado:
If you are divorcing in Colorado, the good news is that Denver, Colorado is the fourth-best city in the country for life after divorce, according to the New York Times. This ranking considers the strength of the economy, the dating pool, and the “re-marriage risk.” The re-marriage risk considers the number of people who have been remarried at least three times.
Seniors and Divorce
Divorce among those age 50 and up is known as “grey divorce.” The grey divorce rate grew only slightly between 1970 and 1990, then doubled by 2010. There is limited information about divorce rates by age during those years, but the grey divorce rate probably kept pace with the rise of divorce rates in general as divorce became more accepted and accessible in the United States. During those years, society began to value personal fulfillment as well as commitment to marriage, so Americans felt freer to divorce. Remarriages became more common, along with the higher divorce rate that accompanies remarriage. Women were becoming more financially independent and life expectancy was rising. All those factors contributed to the rise in overall divorce rates.
Since 2010, the divorce rate among adults aged 50-64 has plateaued. The only age group with a rising divorce rate is that of adults aged 65 and older. 36% percent of divorcing parties are age 50 or older. Every marriage ends, either by divorce, annulment, or death. 25% of older women’s marriages end in divorce rather than death, and 52% of older men’s marriages end in divorce.
The city with the highest senior divorce rate in the United States is Denver, Colorado. According to Census Bureau data from 2018, 28 percent of Denver residents aged 65 and older are divorced.
Seniors who are financially dependent on their spouses have limited opportunities to increase their earning potential, and retirement is a significant change in most couples’ financial situations. While seniors’ finances might be more complicated than those of younger generations, most seniors do not have to address the difficult and complicated issue of parenting young children after divorce. Seniors who are contemplating divorce should speak with an attorney to get a realistic idea of how divorce could financially impact them.
Cohabitation versus Marriage
In 2019, the US Census Bureau reported that there were 469,000 households with unmarried same-sex couples, compared to 61.4 million heterosexual married couples and 8 million unmarried cohabitating heterosexual couples.
Many people are surprised to learn that simply living together does not establish a common law marriage. Colorado is one of the few states that allows the establishment of common law marriages. We can help you determine whether your relationship qualifies as a common law marriage, and whether you are bound by the duties and entitled to the benefits that come with it.
Same Sex Relationships and Marriage
In June of 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court held that same-sex couples had the Constitutional right to marry. At that time, about 242,000 married, same-sex couples lived in the United States. By March of 2020, that number had risen to an estimated 513,000.
In 2016, same-sex couples spent an average of $11,000 on weddings, while heterosexual couples spent an average of $15,000. Same-sex couples’ wedding spending contributed about $3.2 billion to the economy in the five years following the Obergefell decision.
Our firm has long supported marriage equality. Whether you are beginning or ending a marriage or committed relationship, our lawyers can help you protect your financial interests.
We hope you found this article and the respective statistics of interest as you determine whether to pursue marriage or to end it. If you need legal counsel, please reach out to us here at Griffiths Law. An experienced attorney can help you decide whether to stay in your marriage or seek a divorce. An attorney’s advice can empower you to make the best decision for yourself in your unique circumstances.
Jamie Paine is a Shareholder at Griffiths Law. Jamie’s practice focuses on domestic relations matters. Jamie’s background as a District Attorney helps her handle delicate matters with tactful strategy and empathy.