Divorce Rate Trending Down in Alabama and the U.S., But Why?

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Aug 26, 2009 | 0 Comments

As a Birmingham divorce and family law attorney, I have counseled many clients on the pros and cons of legal separation and divorce. Here in Alabama, the frequency of divorce is still the highest in the nation, but overall the rates of separation and divorce in cities such as Birmingham and Montgomery mirror that of the rest of the U.S. — according to reports, people are divorcing less frequently than ever before. But why is this?

As an Alabama divorce lawyer, I've heard a number of theories. Some suggest that folks are just not getting married as often. Instead, couples are choosing to together — this may be true, since research has proven that the number of couples living together has increased by a factor of ten since 1960.

Another school of though is that many married couples include a higher percentage of college educated people. The thinking here is that in such families both parties may work, reducing financial stress, and allowing the couples to remain married. Finally, some sociologists suggest that in some parts of the country the stigma of being divorced has increased, which may force couples in these areas to work harder to stay married. This may have a significant impact on some, but the media may also be a factor.

As we have seen on TV, in the newspapers and online, more and more politicians, celebrities and other famous, high profile people who have revealed their indiscretions also seem to have spouses who are willing to “stick it out” to make the marriage work.

We've seen it here in Alabama and in our nation's capital. Folks like South Carolina's Governor Mark Sanford, former presidential candidate John Edwards, and recently resigned Tennessee Senator Paul Stanley. In each case, either the man or his wife said they planned to work on saving their marriages. Now, data on divorce and infidelity suggest that something similar is happening between lesser-known couples more often than people suspect.

While the divorce rate appears to be down, the percentage of married people who report having cheated on their spouse has remained about the same. While sociologists and demographers offer a variety of possible explanations – including a decline in the number of married people and people waiting until they're older to marry – many point to the economic downturn to explain how spouses respond to infidelity.

A survey released by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts this year found that the recession led some couples to delay divorce. In a survey done by the American Academy for Matrimonial Lawyers, a professional organization for divorce attorneys, 37 percent responded that their business sees a drop during tough financial times.

Federal data show the divorce rate falling since 1990 but most sharply in the later part of this decade. In Tennessee, the divorce rate grew by 4.8 percent between 1990 and 2000 but fell sharply, by nearly 22 percent, between 2000 and 2008.

The bottom line: Although divorce has become less common, infidelity has not.

Divorce after infidelity declines, wbir.com, August 12, 2009

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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