Divorce Makes a Comback: More Couples to Call It Quits 1/15/03
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Wed Jan 15 13:48:03 EST 2003
subject: Divorce Makes a Comback: More Couples to Call It Quits 1/15/03
from: Smart Marriages®
Here are postings about yesterday's article in the Wall Street Journal,
Divorce Makes a comeback. I'm including the comments from the Family
Scholar Blog (formerly Marriage Movement Blog) by David Blankenhorn followed
by a summary of the article and then the article itself. - diane
> Family Scholars Blog
> Tuesday, January 14, 2003
> SCARY HEADLINE FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL: "Divorce Makes a Comback:
> Poor Economy, Tense Times Prompt More Couples to Call It Quits." It's not
> available online, but you should check it out -- it's one of the worst,
> sloppiest articles you will ever come across. Almost everything about it is
> either wrong, misleading, or confused. Bottom line: There is no credible
> evidence that the divorce rate is going up, and there is certainly no credible
> evidence that the bad economy, or worries about terrorism, are causing more
> couples to split up.
> Bad journalism, especially in one of the national papers, produces lots of bad
> ripple effects. I just heard from several people saying they were getting
> calls from radio programs (including NPR) planning to do shows tomorrow on the
> "news" that "divorce is making comeback." What a shame. I'll try to post more
> on this shortly.
> posted by David Blankenhorn at 6:06 PM
> Wednesday, January 15, 2003
> THE JOURNAL BLOWS IT (CONT.): More on the bogus "divorce is making a comeback"
> story from yesterday's Wall Street Journal. We need to get the word out
> before it becomes written in stone (falsely) that "divorce is making a
> comeback." posted by David Blankenhorn at 11:58 AM
- - - - - - - - - - -
While national statistics on divorce rates generally lag several
years, court records and localized surveys show that divorce
filings are on the rise in many parts of the country. Some
experts predicted, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, many
troubled couples would opt to stay together for financial
o But 78 percent of divorce attorneys report their caseloads
are increasing or remain steady.
o A review of court records in five cities, including
Philadelphia and Houston, show no evidence of a decrease
o In New York state, filings were up 4 percent in late 2002,
compared with the year before.
o In Santa Fe, N.M., and surrounding counties, divorce
filings have climbed 13 percent.
A new study of combat veterans from World War II through Vietnam
shows that vets were 62 percent more likely than others of their
generation to dissolve their marriages.
The overall divorce rate, measured by the proportion of splits to
marriages in any given year, soared to near 50 percent between
the mid-'60s and early '80s -- and has remained steady since.
Source: Jeffrey Zaslow, "Divorce Makes a Comeback," Wall Street
Journal, January 14, 2003.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
January 14, 2003
Poor Economy, Tense Times
Prompt Resurgence of Divorce
By JEFFREY ZASLOW
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Not long ago, state governments from Oklahoma to Michigan were
developing programs to save marriages. Researchers were declaring that
unhappy couples could find happiness without splitting up. And there was
great speculation that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks would lead estranged
spouses to recommit.
Now, however, pessimism has returned to the divorce arena.
Despite all the high expectations and marriage-saving energy, new
studies indicate that divorces are getting more contentious and that,
unlike past economic downturns -- when troubled couples stayed together
for financial support -- this one is having little ameliorative effect.
While national statistics lag several years behind the present, court
records and a wave of localized surveys -- particularly after the
terrorist attacks of 2001 -- show that divorce filings are on the rise
in many parts of the country. In fact, 78% of divorce attorneys say
their caseloads are increasing or remaining steady, according to a
recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
The Institute for American Values, a New York-based think tank, reviewed
court records in five cities where the media issued post-9/11 reports of
couples calling off divorces, including Philadelphia and Houston. The
group found no evidence of dwindling filings. In New York state, scene
of one of the attacks, divorce filings were little changed in the latter
months of 2001 compared with 2000. In late 2002, filings were up 4%
compared with the year before. Contested divorces -- the most
acrimonious kind -- were up 6%.
"Marital terrorism continues unabated," says Alan M. Rubenstein, a judge
in Bucks County, Pa. "Spouses are still wreaking havoc on one another."
In Hamilton County, Ohio, which includes Cincinnati, divorce filings
remain steady and domestic-violence filings have risen 9%. In Miami-Dade
County, Fla., divorce filings and domestic violence are up 3%. In Santa
Fe, N.M., and surrounding counties, divorce filings have climbed 13%.
Compounding that is a new study of combat veterans from World War II
through Vietnam, which showed that they were 62% more likely than their
generation to dissolve their marriages -- an ominous sign as tens of
thousands of troops prepare for battle in Iraq.
All of this comes as a number of comprehensive studies of divorce
challenge the conventional wisdom that spouses are better off leaving a
bad marriage. According to a recent multiuniversity study of more than
5,000 couples, for example, almost eight out of 10 couples in "very
unhappy" marriages who avoid divorce call themselves "happily married"
five years later. Of those who divorced, just 50% were happier.
The overall divorce rate, measured by the proportion of splits to
marriages in any given year, soared to near 50% between the mid-'60s and
early '80s. It has remained steady since. But many predicted that the
stresses of recent years, combined with various state initiatives
designed to discourage divorce, would help cut the divorce rate further.
That hasn't happened. Frederic J. Siegel, a divorce attorney in
Stamford, Conn., saw this firsthand on the very day of the Sept. 11
attacks. The soon-to-be ex-wife of one of Mr. Siegel's clients worked on
a high floor of the World Trade Center. In the weeks before the attacks,
the couple had battled ferociously over finances. All morning on Sept.
11, the husband fantasized that his wife was dead and would no longer be
able to make his life miserable.
She survived, however, and the dynamics between the couple improved.
They settled their case. "Her frame of mind changed and so did his,"
says Mr. Siegel. But now, 16 months later, these ex-spouses are back at
each other's throats, bickering over child and money issues that still
Indeed, if Sept. 11 is a factor in family court these days, usually it
is as an excuse. Judge Rubenstein says "a slew of defendants" have cited
the terrorist attacks as the reason they are behind in child-support
payments. They claim the attacks affected their livelihoods, but the
judge accepted such explanations in just two of about 75 cases.
The same frustrations are also dogging government programs aimed at
keeping more couples together. In the late 1990s, a number of states
launched initiatives to reduce divorce rates, partly because of the
focus on family values but also because broken families are a drag on
Oklahoma, which has the nation's second-highest divorce rate, earmarked
$10 million to a program that asks young couples to take
marriage-education classes and postpone weddings. In 1999, Gov. Frank
Keating vowed to cut the divorce rate by a third by 2010. But now,
project researchers say the goal is likely unreachable, given the
societal factors fueling divorce, including more lenient divorce laws, a
more affluent society and a hands-off approach by religions. Driving
Oklahoma's high divorce rate: The average first-time bride there marries
at age 22; grooms at 24. That is 2.5 years younger than the national
average. The state also has a high poverty rate, another strong factor
In Florida, a four-year-old state law gives couples a $32.50 discount on
their marriage license if they take marriage prep courses. It is unclear
if the effort has had any impact. Last month, Gov. Jeb Bush vowed to
make combating divorce a cornerstone of his second term. He is studying
divorce-fighting initiatives launched in other states, including
"marriage covenant" laws that invite couples to sign contracts requiring
a two-year waiting period before divorces are final.
But such external influences won't easily overcome the "underlying
reasons" for divorce, says David Popenoe, co-director of the National
Marriage Project, a marriage-trends think tank. One potent negative
force: people's demand for "their rights to self-fulfillment," he says.
The rage factor is a byproduct of that. In the fall 2002 survey by the
American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 47% of attorneys said the
contentiousness of divorce is increasing. Just 10% notice a decrease.
In some cases, modern inventions are providing new outlets for impulses
that have long broken up marriages, like extramarital temptations.
Almost two-thirds of the attorneys called the Internet "a significant
factor" in divorce cases they handled last year, as married people
increasingly use it to find new love interests or visit pornographic
Before the divorce wars can improve, there will need to be a societal
sea change, says David Olson, a University of Minnesota professor who
has studied 21,000 marriages. "The stigma of divorce and the tolerance
for bad relationships are so low now. People used to suffer through
difficult times and hope things would get better. Now people give up too
The terrorist attacks did provide lessons for married couples, if we
choose to pay attention, says Prof. Olson. "After Sept. 11, people
rallied and looked at the strengths they'd need to rebuild. Couples can
do the same thing. Rally together and look for the strengths you both
have that can rebuild your marriage."
But some are still skeptical. Brian Muldoon, a divorce mediator in
Evanston, Ill., was in a session with a couple that day. "It was
surreal," he says, "because as the buildings were collapsing in New
York, they were still arguing. There was a momentary pause and they
said, 'Gee, it's really sad for New York,' but then their emotions were
right back at the top. I was flabbergasted."
How Your Marriage Stacks Up
The latest research into divorce challenges the conventional wisdom
about why marriages fail. Here are some of the warning signs.
QUESTION LATEST THINKING
Did you live together before marriage? Mom was right. Researchers now
say that married couples who lived together are 50% more likely to get
divorced. They tend to have a "renter's agreement" philosophy that makes
them less committed to sticking through hard times.
How long have you been married? Forget the seven-year itch. New
data show that more divorces happen in the fourth year of marriage than
Do you fight with your spouse? Maybe you should. As long as you're an
open-minded combatant, bickering can be good for relationships -- in
fact, some researchers say it's the key to marital bliss.
Do your maritial problems seem insoluble? Don't worry if they do.
The latest thinking is that some of the most successful couples don't
solve their problems -- they outlast them. It's called the "marital
Do you fantasize about divorce? You need a dose of reality:
Almost 80% of couples who were "very unhappy" in their marriages and
agreed not to divorce described themselves as "happy" five years later,
a new study finds. Of those who divorced, only half were "happy" five
Source: University of Wisconsin; University of Minn.; Statistics Canada;
Institute for American Values study led by University of Chicago
sociologist Linda Waite
WHERE TO FIND HELP
Some Web sites that may help you avoid winding up in divorce court:
www.DivorceCentral.com <http://www.divorcecentral.com/> 1 Offers
resources, state-by-state laws, divorce bookstore.
www.DivorceAsFriends.com <http://www.divorceasfriends.com/> 2 Tips on
avoiding conflict, resolving issues, and keeping divorce attorneys at
bay. Suggests ground rules for peaceful divorce.
www.DivorceDirectory.com <http://www.divorcedirectory.com/> 3 Links to
127 Web sites on divorce, including those focused on divorcing fathers,
children of divorce, and do-it-yourself splits.
www.DivorceWithoutWar.com <http://www.divorcewithoutwar.com/> 4
Information on mediation services.
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