Stats on the reasons for divorce.

One old saw when the topic of frivolous divorce comes up is you never really know what is happening in someone else’s marriage.  The premise being that even those apparently frivolous divorces are likely due to serious cause.  Interestingly the people most adamant about this also tend to be the ones most in favor of no fault divorce.  A very common tactic by proponents of no fault divorce is to change the subject to abuse, addiction, and infidelity.  These are of course the very reasons they are arguing one shouldn’t have to claim in order to divorce.  It is possible that they lack the logical capacity to understand why this is a red herring, or perhaps they would just rather try to win the argument than make logical sense.

Moreover, I wish I knew what these people’s secret was to avoiding divorcée TMI (Too Much Information).  I must have a sign on my forehead saying “Tell me about your frivolous divorce”.  A typical encounter with a new divorcée who I have never met but mistakenly share an elevator with goes something like the following:

New Divorcée: I’m glad you asked.  My ex husband was such a loser… [Cornered, Dalrock goes into his happy place imagining a flock of ducks (all green-heads) setting their wings in preparation to land in his decoys.  An unknown period of time elapses as the divorcée continues sharing all of her ex husband’s faults and her complaints about each of the men she has dated since her divorce.]  …and that is why I decided to take his grandfather’s war medals in the settlement.

Dalrock: Um, that’s very interesting maam.  But all I asked was what floor you wanted me to push the button for.

As I’m sure is the case for many of this blog’s readers, I’ve learned to scope elevators very carefully for the telltale new divorcée haircut, crazy eyes, and inappropriate cleavage.  Better to take the stairs than end up trapped in a steel box with a desperate cougar sharing TMI.  No means no divorcées! As in, no I don’t want to hear about your divorce or your miserable dating life!

I’m sure there is a good deal of selection bias in effect here.  Those women who tried to keep their marriages together in the face of true cause for divorce are almost guaranteed to be too dignified to air their dirty laundry with a complete stranger, especially one who is trying to pry the elevator doors apart between floors.

I do occasionally hear about men’s divorces as well, but usually this is either from someone I know fairly well or something I overhear a man telling to other men he knows well.  Typically men don’t talk about the details of the marriage, but more about the injustices of the family court system:

Newly divorced man talking to his buddies: I can’t believe she took my work truck.  It isn’t worth anything and I don’t believe her when she says she wants to drive it.  She has both of our cars.  Why not drive one of those?  How am I supposed to pay all of that child support and alimony without my work truck?  I need it for my business!

One of his buddies: Hang in there.  She’ll get tired of driving a septic pumping truck and is bound to sell it back to you for a good price.

Anyway, I promised stats in the title and I’ll keep my promise.  The data below is from the AARP survey and therefore has the problem of being more reflective of reasons for divorce later in life.  However, it isn’t as problematic as you might think because 73% of the divorces being measured in the survey occurred when the person was in their 40s.  I don’t have stats on when people divorce, but given the fact that 80% of divorced (and not remarried) women in the US are age 40 or over and 89% are 35 or older, I’m guessing divorce clusters around age 35 to 50.  Here are the top seven reasons from figure four on page 24 of the report:

Note that they are actually combining the answers to three questions in this one chart.  They first ask what was the most significant reason for the divorce, then they ask the question two more times for the next two reasons.  If we are looking for cases of justified divorce, I think we only need to look at the answers to the first question.  If someone listed “No obvious problems, simply fell out of love” as the primary reason and then abuse as a second or third reason, I’m not convinced on the abuse answer.  It is also possible that someone answered abuse as the first reason, addiction as the second, and infidelity as the third.  However in that case we would still only want to count them once as a non frivolous divorce so adding in all three answers doesn’t make sense there either.

Also, while the chart shortens the answer to “Abuse”, the choice presented to the person taking the survey was “Verbal, physical or emotional abuse” (see P 68 for full wording of all categories).  This is problematic because everything is now considered abuse.  In addition, there is a psychological motivation to want to give an answer which is not frivolous, so I would say this data at best allows us to place an upward bound on the percent of divorce which was for serious cause.  If you add up the percentages for the first answer of abuse, infidelity, and addiction, you end up with a total of 44%.

Interestingly, the responses vary greatly between men and women surveyed, even though the question asks why the marriage ended, not what the other party did wrong:

Of all the reasons listed below, which was the most significant reason for your last divorce? (Reason may apply to you or to your spouse)

Here are the summary results (P 68) including how it broke down by men and women.

Note that men were much more likely to say it ended for no obvious reason (17% vs 7% for women), much less likely to say it was because of abuse (8% vs 23% for women), much less likely to say it was for addiction (6% vs 18%), and somewhat less likely to say it was because of infidelity (14% vs 17% for women).

Men and women’s answers also differed on who was to blame (full data on page 72):

Looking at the discrepancies above it seems pretty clear that there is quite a lot of rationalization (or outright lying) going on by both sexes.  Men seem  more willing to cop to being the cause, but both men and women are claiming  the other was at fault for concrete causes more than is possible.  Interestingly of the three bad behaviors above, women seem to be most comfortable admitting to committing abuse.

From the data I’ve seen, men and women are unfaithful at similar rates (with men slightly more likely to cheat).  However, the women in the AARP survey who said infidelity was a cause of the divorce attributed the infidelity to their husbands 92% of the time!  We can cross check this to some degree by comparing the answers to the question of who it was who fell in love with someone else:

My guess is that falling in love with someone else has less negative connotation than cheating, so both sexes were much more willing to be honest about their own fault.

Another question which jumped out because of the sheer improbability of the answers is the one on which spouse was gay (for the less than 1% who answered that homosexuality was one of the causes of the divorce):

Interestingly both sexes accused the other of being the gay one at roughly equal rates.  However, men were more willing to admit they were gay while the women who didn’t claim their husband was gay simply refused to answer the question.  Edit: I didn’t notice until after hitting “publish” that the actual numbers here were so small.  One man admitted he was the gay one, and one woman refused to answer.

Note that the survey was conducted via web and the respondents were contacted by email and not by phone or face to face.  Had this been a telephone or face to face survey one would typically expect even less willingness to be truthful about embarrassing questions.  I think the discrepancies point out that divorce is a highly charged topic and that men and women both are very concerned with how their answers would look to others.  This is something we should keep in mind whenever considering survey data like this.

One last result (and bit of rationalization) that I’ll share from the survey is who asked for the divorce (P75):

If you look only at the “me” responses, the results fit in the low end of the figures we commonly hear.  66% of the divorces were initiated by women, and this doesn’t seem entirely out of line with the figures on page 3 of this report (H/T Brendan).  As I read the results in the table above, men and women were generally very clear about the answer when they were the initiators of the divorce;  you can add up the “me” answers from men and women and it is almost exactly 100%.  However, those who didn’t initiate the divorce seem to have felt tempted to rationalize their answer and often times responded that it was mutual.

Note: If anyone has any other data sources on this question, please share them in the comments section.

This entry was posted in Aging Feminists, Data, Grey Divorce. Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Stats on the reasons for divorce.

  1. Fourmyle of Ceres says:

    “It is possible that they lack the logical capacity to understand why this is a red herring, or perhaps they would just rather try to win the argument than make logical sense.”

    [Insert crack about arguing with women (regardless of topic) here]

  2. Badger Nation says:

    I go through cycles of feeling more comfortable with the idea of marriage and thinking it’s worth the risk if I go about it the right way, and seeing it as a legal shamjob and financial nuclear bomb no sane man should dare risk no matter how much he’s in love.

    Between this post and reading some state divorce laws for a family friend’s divorce, I’m now more in the latter camp. Just read the following in black and white:

    “One spouse may be ordered to pay support [i.e. alimony] to the other, regardless of marital misconduct.” (Further down there’s a clause about the “lifestyle” kept during the marriage.)

    It lost me right there; F that sideways. The idea my spouse could cheat on me or decide she was just done with it, leave me without my assent and grab a salary for the privilege of no longer being married to me skunks my junk to the highest order.

  3. dan says:

    It’s a bit hard to trust a website where the main contributor cannot add 3 double-digit integers together to obtain the correct answer. Not exactly brain surgery in a rocket, it is.

    [D: Thanks. Fixed. Sorry to have caused your panties to bunch up like that.]

  4. terry@breathinggrace says:

    The idea my spouse could cheat on me or decide she was just done with it, leave me without my assent and grab a salary for the privilege of no longer being married to me skunks my junk to the highest order.

    …As well it should, Badger Nation. As well it should, lol.

  5. Brendan says:

    It follows from the philosophy of no-fault unilateral divorce. If the law doesn’t take fault into account for deciding to dissolve a marriage, it isn’t going to take it into account for anything pertaining to that dissolution, either, including things like spousal support.

    It *can* be taken into account for things like custody awards, but generally only to impeach the father. The way the courts work in most places when it comes to custody is, as my own lawyer explained how it works in my locality, is that the mother gets custody unless (1) she wants to share custody, (2) she literally abandons the kids to the father or (3) she shows up in court with a lit crack pipe in her hand. Fathers often try to contest this, and that’s where most of the mudslinging in divorce comes from — people trying to disqualify the other spouse from having either joint (father) or sole (mother) custody. When it comes to the financial stuff — whether its spousal support or child support or asset division — who did what to whom generally doesn’t matter much, and guys who opt to have “traditional” arrangements get severely punished financially for having done so, generally.

  6. Professor Hale says:

    You rightly point out that everything is abuse now. Obviously, if the woman found her marriage intollerable, her husband MUST have been emotionally abusive. Abandonment can also be “emotional abandonment”, which can also be anything from watching TV to playing video games or having any outside interest that the wife does not like. Adultery has been expanded to include porn. Addiction has been expanded to include “sex addiction” which may include porn (any amount, any style, Victoria’s Secret Catalog = r-rated movie = explicit orgy scenes to a woman who is dissatisfied with her husband) or just liking to have sex with the wife more than once a month.

    Without observable bahaviors, stats like this are not very useful.

    The whole point of moving to no-fault divorce was to prevent people from falsely accusing their spouses of “causes”. In Virginia, you can get a divorce for either cause or no-cause. No-cause takes longer. But in theory, niether is supposed to be considered in the divorce settlement. According to Virginia law, the court is not empowered to punish an offending spouse. I don’t have any observations on how that works in practice.

  7. Eric says:


    The best way to avoid divorce is to avoid dating Anglo women in the first place. Feminism teaches women to hate men; women educated under feminism hate men; and women cannot relate to us as anything other than rivals, enemies, or inferiors.

    Most ‘reasons’ for divorce are really excuses. Since Anglo women are conditioned to find fault with men and treat us as expendable, divorce is predictable under such circumstances. ‘Abuse’ can mean no more than the bitch is bored and wants to move on (since she has no further use for the husband who invested years of his life in a relationship).

    The majority, by far, of US divorces are initated by women. It should be added, that it is obvious that ‘love’ is rarely, if ever, a woman’s motive for marriage in the first place.

  8. Lovekraft says:

    I am concurrently watching “Princess” online on Slice TV which exposes entitled, empowered self-centered women and a common theme I am seeing is a narcissism and superficiality which is also palpable. This translates into a mentality that will be able to justify anything as cause for divorce. In the case of one Princess, Cortney, she actually stated she is looking to marry a rich man first, then marry for love secondly, after she has fleeced the first guy. But my question would be, how would any man desire someone like her if he peered beneath the layers?

    And most of these women appear educated. Unfortunately in the wrong areas, such as a multi-faith amorality.

  9. Badger Nation says:

    In the interest of perspective, I’m not one who thinks no-fault divorce is bad per se. I find it difficult to argue, in a free society, that people shouldn’t be able to get out of legal bonds that were set up with little else but their own say-so. Every contract in our society has buyout and severance clauses. The law doesn’t really care that marriage contains vows, soleminzation, etc. It only cares what’s on paper and what requires the oversight of the state.

    The unjust problem is not divorce by mutual consent, two people who just don’t want to be married anymore (the original justification case for NFD laws) – it’s unilateral divorce, the allowance of frivolous unilateral divorce, and the unjust transfer of material resources. To that end, I think MRA and divorce reform groups should move on one or all of the following items:

    -End no-fault-only divorce – extend the twin pillar system to all states so people can file for fault cases.
    -End no-fault alimony except for limited extreme cases – if you’re going to consent to a mutual divorce you should have no claim on the other’s income. Include marital misconduct – eliminate alimony for cheating spouses (see the above bullet). In any case eliminate the “accustomed lifestyle” idea which is untenable in the two-income era.
    -Tighten up the DV/molestation accusation racket and punish people who lie in their affadavits.

    I have a couple of thoughts on the family law system. First, much of the idea behind community property, equitable division, etc appears to be the state not wanting to get involved in deciding who gets the forks and the spoons. Cases are so varied it’s understandable the state doesn’t want to take them on one by one. Ditto marital conduct – sounds great to have alimony cancellation from cheating, but then you generate an escalating series of sob stories as one side tries to prove the other dropped their end of the bargain. The court doesn’t want to get into those weeds. Problem is finding the right balance is their job, if they can’t handle that the state needs to get out of the marriage game entirely. Someone needs to be an adult and say “sorry ma’am, get off your ass and get a job” or whatever needs to be said.

    Second, despite all the worry about activist judges, misandrist judges, etc, which are all valid, decent judges as a rule are hardly wont to wholly set aside provisions of the law. If the law says a spouse can petition for alimony, he’s going to consider the petition, and then it becomes a matter of who’s got the best lawyers. Following that, a huge factor I’ve seen in the divorce-rape cases I’ve studied is incompetent counsel, or a client who is just not mentally focused on the fact that the other side is ready to take him for all he’s worth (this seems common in blindside divorce cases).

  10. Badger Nation says:

    “But my question would be, how would any man desire someone like her if he peered beneath the layers?”

    She’ll find somebody. Some wealthy men are so dumb.

  11. Dalrock says:

    Great points in your 4:12 post Badger. I think returning to fault based divorce is pretty unlikely in the near term at least, for the reasons you explain. I think more likely is a continued diminishment in public support for the concept of alimony as the no fault system turns it into an open con. Even now very few women really try to argue in favor of alimony. What we see instead is denial that it occurs and burying alimony into child support.

    This puts feminists in a very risky position because they have staked their whole moral case on the shaky assumption that women will always be granted primary custody. MRAs should focus on pushing for joint custody with the elimination of or drastic reduction of child support payments in cases where both parents agree to actively participate. The problem the feminists will have is they can’t admit they were fleecing men all along, so they have to try to pretend it is better for kids to be taken away from their fathers and (maybe even worse for feminists) claim that women are somehow natural care givers and men are natural earners.

  12. Dalrock says:

    One more point: As women delay marriage later and later the con of marry, have kids, and then all of a sudden declare the man to be the world’s biggest jerk gets much more difficult to execute long term. Women who wait to marry don’t have the same level of claim that they lack a career because they married young. A woman who was in her thirties with very little career success will have a hard time convincing society in general that her husband is to blame for her only being able to work a clerical job. In addition, the clever move of alimony into child support made the con easier to sell and allowed remarriage without penalty, but long term it is a bad move for those women who have children later in life.

    A woman who married in her early 20s and had kids and was divorced before age 30 is much more likely to find another sucker to marry her and take care of her for life. A woman who waited until her mid 30s will be in her 40s with a much lower chance of remarrying if she tries the same trick. Child support and a one time asset transfer only lasts for so long. Who will these women turn to in 20 years when they approach retirement? The kids whose lives they turned upside down? The ex husband they fleeced 20 years ago? The stream of men they slept with in the meantime? Their stable friends who remained married?

  13. Dalrock says:

    @Professor Hale
    Without observable bahaviors, stats like this are not very useful.

    These stats really are problematic. Still, I think you can use them to show upward bounds on certain things. Women only claimed abuse, infidelity, or addiction was the reason for the divorce 58% of the time (Dan please check my math). While I don’t buy the figure, I don’t think they were overstating the fact that they divorced 42% of the time without any of these reasons. It isn’t a stretch to assume that at least half of all divorces in the study were for other than valid reason. We don’t know if it was 50% frivolous or 75%, but we know it wasn’t say 80% with solid cause.

  14. dan says:

    Fixed only 1 of your 2 math errors. Jesus. 66 + 41 +2 +1 is NOT 100.

    Are there any girls who are good at math around?

    [D: Fixed. Are you always this pissy? Do you have a point you would like to make, or do you scour the web addressing the injustice of math errors?]

  15. Pickle says:

    While I do agree that no fault divorce definitely makes it easier to get out of marriage, I will say I am thankful I lived in a state that had this. After finding hundreds of dollars of gay porn hidden in my husbands CD cases topped off with the fact that he refused to touch me, I was happy I didn’t have to hash that out publicly. He refused to admit it. Not until after we were long divorced, he put his family off, quit speaking to me and stopped trying to have any contact with his son, did he finally come out to everyone else around him. From photo’s I have seen and things mentioned to me, he has gone on to live a dangerous life style of binge drinking and who know’s what else. So I again and VERY grateful this was not something I had to discuss in court. I am thankful we were not forced to seek counselling and I am happy it took 90 days.

    For people who simply “fall out of love” or who are getting bored, divorce is a lame ass way to excite them. Period. I think a no fault divorce law will eventually rule all states, but I really wonder if the numbers would actually drop if it was made harder? Maybe they should start making getting married difficult so the couple in question will actually have to put some elbow grease into it.

  16. Badger Nation says:

    Here’s another cocked-up case study of marital theft:

    Dude’s wife walks out on him after a five-year marriage, ordered to pay for shit for his adult stepdaughter and ordered to pay over $70,000 to his ex in the course of a month (that of course he doesn’t have lying around). Had an alcoholic judge who was drunk on the bench!


    I agree that we should make entry into marriage much more difficult: mandatory waiting periods, mandatory counseling, requirements for financial and medical disclosure (including STDs and fertility), maybe a mandatory prenup, a sort of release of liability where you acknowledge the legal fates that may await you should you attempt to dissolve the union.

  17. Dalrock says:

    So I again and VERY grateful this was not something I had to discuss in court. I am thankful we were not forced to seek counselling and I am happy it took 90 days.

    I can sure understand that! I’m very sorry to read about your very painful experience.

    I think the tough thing is (as others have already said) that it isn’t just about ending the marriage, but about government deciding how children and assets will be divided and who should make payments to whom. If you want the government to do that for you, it stops being such a private matter. In your case the default answer of kids (and maybe payment) goes to the wife sounds like the right solution. But this was merely an accident. If the system is going to get it right more often than by accident then it needs to be more intrusive.

    More importantly if we want marriage to survive as an institution the stacked deck will need to be done away with. Given enough generations under this current system I have no question that eventually most productive men will decide marriage isn’t a path they want to follow. Those of us who value marriage as a societal institution need to find a way to craft a just system which takes into account situations like yours as well as the incentive many women (and a much smaller number of men) perceive today to marry for long enough to have children and then divorce and sue for support.

  18. grerp says:

    I think with adultery, the rule is getting to be that the first cheat is the one that “counts” for the marriage’s break up. That is, if he cheats, she feels like she is entitled to cheat too. If they patch things up, great. If not, it was the first act that blew the whole thing up. I really do not understand this tit-for-tat, get-out-of-fidelity-free mentality. Either adultery is wrong, in which case it’s always wrong, or it’s not.

  19. Pickle, I think that is your name hiding behind the symbol. It is hard to see. Do you mind my asking, did you not realise this guy was a homosexual before you married him? Why did he marry you if he had no use, so to speak, for women?

  20. Eric says:


    Exactly. Unfortuneately, men in our culture are not encouraged to ‘look beneath the layers’. American men are taught that WE are the ones who are ‘superficial and narcissistic’ if we dare question a female’s motives or character.

    No, we’re told that ‘real men’ get down on one knee, and put these princesses on pedestals—fully accepting their obvious character defects and passively accepting their abuse—because, we are told; they ‘have issues’, and of course, aren’t responsible for their behavior anyway.

    American men make this common mistake: they assume that American women are the same as the American women of earlier generations. Those women may have belonged on pedestals; try putting one of these modern feminized American Amazons on a pedestal and she’ll kick your teeth out.

  21. Pickle says:

    @ David, yes and no I saw things that may have indicated. I was only 18 when I met him and very much still a virgin(rare I know). So I really didn’t have much of an example of what was normal. My parents divorced when I was 13 and I was left to my mother who basically left me to figure life out for myself. I spent 6 years totally miserable trying to figure out what I was doing wrong and refusing to walk away just because it was hard. Things got real great for a time, got pregnant and then when he told me I was totally disgusting because I was pregnant with an “alien” in me, well I started wondering what the Hell was really going on. After I left and sat to have a talk with his mom she finally confided in me that she and her husband had suspicions at one time because they had found the porn in his room before I came along. Then they just figured he was fine when he met me. No idea why he decided latch on to me. Probably because of my lack of knowledge on what was normal and what wasn’t.

  22. Badger Nation says:

    “American men make this common mistake: they assume that American women are the same as the American women of earlier generations. Those women may have belonged on pedestals.”

    I don’t agree with this. The overall moral character of a people doesn’t change that much; what they are allowed to get away with does. With cultural pressures and expectations changed, the overall behavior profile changes.

  23. Eumaios says:

    Pickle is making shit up.

  24. Pickle, that is a sad story. My sister married a man who turned out to be bisexual, although I think she knew when she married him. Marriage didn’t last.

  25. Brendan says:

    The problem the feminists will have is they can’t admit they were fleecing men all along, so they have to try to pretend it is better for kids to be taken away from their fathers and (maybe even worse for feminists) claim that women are somehow natural care givers and men are natural earners.

    They’re a tad cleverer, I think.

    The main argument against a presumption in favor of joint custody, barring disqualifying behavior on the part of either parent, isn’t that men are generally poor care givers. The main argument is that a presumption in favor of joint custody would expose women and children to the risk of being “tethered” to abusive men — in other words, they argue that in many cases it may be hard to prove to a court that the man is abusive enough or otherwise unfit enough to overcome the joint custody presumption, and that therefore many women who are married to abusive men will remain tethered/exposed to them under a joint custody situation, being effectively “trapped in the cycle of abuse” regardless of being divorced. So they say “let there be no presumptions, and let it remain the way it is now, with the “best interests of the child” being the standard” –> which, as we know, effectively means mother custody unless mother expressly wants to share custody or abandons the kids. This argument rests on the basis that (1) it’s common that abuse is so obscure that it cannot be demonstrated to a court, yet at the same time severe enough to make this approach entirely worthwhile and (2) because there are some abusive men who may be able to “game” a system of presumed joint custody, the rest of the non-abusive men just have to suck it up.

    The feminist groups who are against presumptions for joint custody also argue that the only reason that mothers normally get custody under the current standard of the “best interests of the child” is that men are not available for child care or have not been the primary caregiver so far in the child’s life, and that this is, you guessed it, the fault of lingering “patriarchy”, and that having the system the way it is encourages men to be more involved and to challenge the “patriarchal family norms” so that they can get more custody under the existing standard. That is, actually, a junk argument, because there are numerous cases of men who were the primary care givers who nevertheless faced their breadwinner wives winning sole custody in the divorce, and it’s also the case that many/most fathers are very involved with their kids lives today and yet still get butkus custody in many cases. The reality is that no matter what the household arrangements are in a marriage, the courts are biased heavily in favor of awarding mom custody unless she specifically indicates she wants to share custody.

    The feminist groups who are supportive of the current regime are well aware of this, of course, but don’t see this as an issue because it is empowering for women, by definition –> it gives women a huge degree of control over what happens in a divorce if there are kids involved. And as the study noted in the other thread points out, women themselves are also quite well aware that they are overwhelmingly likely to win custody, and this fuels the filing of divorce. If the custody regime were presumptively 50/50 (barring disqualifying behavior on the part of either parent), there would almost certainly be fewer divorces, because the women would not have the double benefit of (1) child support (which has a large alimony component built into it) and (2) complete control over the kids. In a joint/shared parenting situation, support is reduced because the kids spend equal time at both places, and control is shared — which is too close, for many women, to remaining married to bother getting divorced in the first place, especially in those marriages where people are merely “unhappy”, rather than being in abuse/addiction/abandonment/adultery situations.

    In effect, making custody more of a 50/50 proposition would substantially undermine the willingness of women to seek divorces in many marginal cases. And to many women, and women’s groups, that “feels like” a restriction on their freedom, and so they viscerally fight against it.

  26. Badger Nation says:

    When I was in college grad students lived in our dorms as RAs or something like it. One guy (who liked to share TMI details) was married with a kid and still went around telling people he was bisexual. He wound up having an affair with the (female) babysitter, who lived in the dorm was a student in his department (they bonded over the subject matter). Word was the wife cleaned herself up and started dating another man soon after. Good for her.

  27. Professor Hale says:

    It won’t make any difference if there is no-fault divorce or not. People will do what they want. Before no-fault, couples would claim faults that did not exist because they wanted what they wanted and they had to make their excuses fit what the law demanded. It is more sensible to allow people to be honest in court. Another alternative is that the couple goes on to live separate lives without the formality of divorce. It really has no impact unless the other spouse contests it.

  28. Badger Nation says:

    “It won’t make any difference if there is no-fault divorce or not. People will do what they want. Before no-fault, couples would claim faults that did not exist because they wanted what they wanted and they had to make their excuses fit what the law demanded.”

    I absolutely agree – the problem is not the legal instrument through which divorce is obtained (except, of course, for the unjust division of property and resources that often attends it). I’ve talked to lawyers who practiced in CA in the 70’s – they told me the NFD law didn’t induce any more divorces than were already due to happen, it simply put a lot of private investigators out of work and prevented a lot of people from perjuring themselves (that word still sounds dirty).

    Dalrock is not really arguing here about the legal justification for NFD as a matter of law. He’s arguing against those who claim the moral imperative to execute a (UNILATERAL) no-fault divorce. The problem is the whispers, the cultural environment that suborns and celebrates divorce for bogus and selfish reasons.

    I’ve lost all patience with that kind of attitude. Whenever someone mentions EPL or somesuch divorce fantasy movie, I call the movie out on the spot – “oh yeah, you mean that movie that celebrates a woman walking out on her husband? Think you’d ever see a movie celebrating a man walking out on his wife?” This puts people in the uncomfortable position of defending their interest in that garbage, or at the very least thinking twice about it. I just throw it out there and don’t even stay on the topic for a debate (no need to engage those hamsters). It’s the best I can do without giving a keynote lecture on the topic, and probably more effective.

  29. Badger Nation says:

    “People will do what they want. ”

    One can argue that having NFD on the books has the effect of making divorce seem “acceptable,” the same argument that if we legalize drugs society is saying it’s OK to use them. But I don’t buy it on this issue. All my research shows me that NFD laws were a response to a long-tenured cultural devaluation of marriage, probably beginning even before the sexual revolution (the nostalgia for Marriage 1.0 is misplaced if not fallacious). Then once you could have sex without the risk of pregnancy, the traditional backbone of marriage was out the window.

  30. Brendan says:

    The problem is the interplay between no-fault divorce and property division and custody.

    Why is it acceptable that someone who commits adultery gets an equal share in the marital property and/or custody over the kids and/or alimony/child support? it’s acceptable precisely because we deny that there is any “fault” in divorce that is legally relevant.

    I’d agree that if we fixed the custody and financial aspects so as to take into account one’s behavior (or at least not to make it as much of a reward for a person who screws around and then wants out on their own terms), then NFD would be less of an issue. But the problem is that you have to look at the whole thing together — the scenario of a spouse misbehaving and being financially and custodially rewarded for that is simply grossly unjust and follows directly from the idea that the law overlooks fault in divorce.

  31. Badger Nation says:


    Spot-on. I used to think that re-introducing fault divorce alongside NFD would solve the issue. But then I found that there are two processes going on – the mechanism by which you can FILE for divorce, and the mechanism by which property is divided. It is possible to have a situation where you FILE for a fault divorce and still have marital conduct be a non-factor, by law, in the property division.

  32. Justin says:

    It should be a principle of family law that no one is rewarded who is at fault, and no one is punished who is not at fault.

    at fault = no custody, no received alimony;

    not at fault = no forced child support, no forced alimony, no denial of custody.

    No fault divorce is simply the legalization of abandonment and breach of contract.

    As far as NFD vs fault-based:

    There should be NO STANDARD MARRIAGE contract. All couples should be required to choose the terms of their marriage contract. This is a marriage reform that would be easy to present politically, since it increases everyones liberty and autonomy, rather than trying to fit everyone into the same contractual mode.

  33. Justin says:

    Here is my essay extolling the virtues of fault considerations and private marriage contracts:

  34. Lavazza says:

    As I have written a couple of times there is no absolute correlation between NFD/FD and alimony/CS. In Sweden 50/50 living arrangements and no alimony/CS is the standard solution for urban professionals (and 30 % for the whole divorced population), but the mothers can of course easily manipulate the system if they want to.

    Click to access LE0001_2009K04_TI_02_A05TI0904.pdf

    Page 4.

  35. Lavazza says:

    For a deeper insight to the Swedish situation, if anybody is interested.

    Click to access 03_Separationer_ur_barns_perspektiv.pdf

    Google translate, or just guess what the graphs might be about. 😉

  36. Lovekraft says:

    Brendan: “Why is it acceptable that someone who commits adultery gets an equal share in the marital property and/or custody over the kids and/or alimony/child support? it’s acceptable precisely because we deny that there is any “fault” in divorce that is legally relevant.”

    Well put. You hit the nail on the head, as far as I am concerned.

  37. Eric says:

    Badger Nation:

    What I meant to say was that people often forget that, historically speaking, concepts like ‘chivalry’ also had reciprocal social obligations for women. Today, men have none of their traditional social priviledges and all of the social responsibilities; women have all their social priveledges and none of the traditional responsibilities. Women in the past understood that they had to earn the benefits of a relationship; today they simply consider it an entitlement.

    There are no reasons why men should commit to marriage in our culture, since it accrues absolutely no benefit to us; in fact, it is more of a liability. The only way to uphold traditional marriage is do what a growing number of men are doing: embargo American women. Drop out of the US dating scene. Use your frequent flyer miles and the internet to meet real women elsewhere; women who do like men and want families. Leave the Amerobitches to the creeps they really want anyway. Then, we won’t be talking about divorces so much.

  38. tspoon says:

    No-Fault-Divorce is a misnomer, a further example of the corruption of language by feminist element, as what most western countries currently have is default-male-fault divorce.

  39. Justin says:

    I think the correct term we should be using is:

    “non-consensual divorce”.

  40. terry@breathinggrace says:

    Off topic, Dalrock:

    My blogging buddy Sheila has a new book coming out next year. It’s a big deal on an interesting topic, one the church tends to shy away from too readily in my view. This would be her second book on sexuality in marriage and I’ve read the first one which was pretty good. This one is being released by a major player in Christian publishing and is guarateed to have a much bigger rollout and bigger sales.

    Her announcement is here:

    For the ladies, she has a link in the post to a survey for women that I think will help her as she puts the book together.

  41. Oak says:

    I don’t know if I would support going back to the old way of divorcing… No fault divorce probably makes sense the majority of the time, and at least makes divorces cheaper.

    If you are going to ‘reform’ divorce courts, I say get the government out of marriage entirely. Make it a spiritual or religous ceremony with the same legal weight as getting baptized: Meaning no legal implication whatsoever.

    Personally, I simply don’t think men should get married. Ever. Dont’ get married, and don’t live in common-law spouse States. Bam! Problem solved.

  42. Oak says:

    Off topic, but I like to ‘spread the gospel’ on CNN anytime there’s an article about marriage. Anytime you see a comment from ‘Oakydoke’, that’s me. It’s amazing how not a single person can give a valid reason why a man should marry, and women reading my comments invariably resort to shaming language… “You must be lonely and bitter.” “You’re just afraid of marriage, REAL men aren’t afraid.

    I encourage everyone to watch the media, and comment when you can. Ask the tough questions… Why SHOULD a man get married?

    I consider spending time debunking predatory females, (and complicit beta males) as innoculation against the idiocy that has men lining up for the most sexist, discriminitory institution still on the law books: Family Court.

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  44. Doug1 says:


    If the law doesn’t take fault into account for deciding to dissolve a marriage, it isn’t going to take it into account for anything pertaining to that dissolution, either, including things like spousal support.

    That is the way the law is. It’s not the way the law has to be. It would certainly be logically and legally possible to allow divorce if either spouse wanted out, but to have the property division effected by the real reasons for seeking the divorce.

    It is true though that the desire to avoid messy and protracted mud slinging, or reduce the incentive for it, stands behind both.

  45. Jeffrey Phillip Meadowvale says:

    I want to Thank Dalrock for a great website its opening my eyes to the real world
    I just want to extend my appreciation for this particular website its very good .

    [D: You are most welcome. Glad you find it helpful.]

  46. slasha says:

    Funny how the origins of Second Wave feminism–the male Playboy cult, with its abandonment of children and families (later morphed into gangsta cultcha)–are ignored here. But I guess that suits most gentlemen’s self-privileging views that all women are all wrong all the time. (Good luck finding a partner other than the one below your wrist, fellas, if you go into a relationship with suspicion, gender hatred, racial hatred, and class resentment.)

    I personally think that marriage and divorce are taken way too lightly, but that is to be expected in a society where prosperity leads people to evolve past the old expectations of marriage being a kind of livestock state–two people yoked by horrific, feudal circumstances. There is too much romanticism of marriage, and not enough of a view toward the transformational and evolutionary possibilities.

    I and my husband are feminists, inasmuch as we hoped to find a partner who would be equal, strong, kind, vulnerable, honest, and willing to own their shit, and call us on our own. Give and take. We’re way too queer for this candy-ass bipolar gender bullshit. We wanted to be people together, not drag caricatures.

    And so we are people together, and so our marriage endures. One reason I think is that we have economic equality. I worked for 30 years in my profession; I have savings. I was willing to retire to make our home and tend our land, while he continues to work in his profession. We could have done it the other way, but at 45, he liked his work more than I liked mine. This way we have economic equality, and had it before marrying. Late, by the way. We don’t depend on each other, though together we have a much better quality of life than we could manage separately. We also each have as a deeply held value that our word given in marriage is something we stand behind. My husband once said to me, “My word is my bond.” When he has ever lapsed in that, and I’ve called him on it, he’s taken it like a man. No whining, no fighting, no diversions.

    That’s the thing. Marriage is for grownups, but too much of globalized culture is about paternalism and adolescence-for-life.

    We have been through the patches of anger, boredom, and itchiness that apparently disrupts other couples. Somehow we’ve had the skills to work it through, and renew ourselves and the bond. It’s not easy work, and in an era where things are always supposed to be easy, fun, and advantageous, it swims upstream.

    A man should not get married. Anyone who puts gender games first in his or her psyche would make a very poor partner. Marriage, like prayer or god, is bigger than the bipolar gender categories invented in Mesopotamia for the purpose of maximizing stock breeding. Marriage is a calling that transcends gender, and even transcends the human. We view it as one step toward the divine.

    There is no way for people to approach that whose minds are basically in the gutter of capitalism and advertising.

  47. Dalrock says:

    Funny how the origins of Second Wave feminism–the male Playboy cult, with its abandonment of children and families (later morphed into gangsta cultcha)–are ignored here.

    I mostly write about the problems of the present, but don’t deny the past. For example, in my post Why do you care? I wrote:

    I strongly suspect that men and women each secretly thought that by ushering in the sexual revolution and the divorce revolution that they (and only they) would be able to have their cake and eat it too.

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  51. Stumbled across this link. where the claim is made that in marriages where both partners are college educated women initiate divorces 90% of the time.

    It might be worth looking into.

  52. deti says:

    Father Marker:

    The reasons from the article:

    3.Drinking/Drug Use
    4.Grew Apart
    5.Personality problems
    6.Lack of communication
    7.Physical or mental abuse
    8.Loss of love
    9.Not meeting family obligations
    10.Employment problems

    Interesting. Of these, I would consider only 1, 3 and 7 as valid reasons to divorce.

    And: The reasons why college educated women will be the primary filers 90% of the time in a divorce, I suspect, are many.

    1. She is usually employed and earns her own money. If she isn’t employed, she can more easily become so.
    2. She has more social exposure and access to high status men than her less educated counterparts.
    3. She is more aware of her legal rights and her options.
    4. She is more socially and culturally aware.
    5. She is more independent, and less susceptible to family, social or other pressures to remain in a less-than-satisfying marriage.

  53. dulin says:

    …I’m still in shock that an adulterous or abusive partner has the right to any of the partner’s property. That’s really broken…

  54. grego says:

    Do you have a source for the very interesting 90% stat?

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