The news of falling divorce rates in the U.S. has been heralded by a number of religious and family advocate groups. And indeed, for many it may be a signal that those who grew up in broken homes are dedicated to making their marriages last and working through hardships that may have split their own families in their youth.
But that's not the whole story.
For one thing, the number of people getting married in the first place is on the decline too. Couple cohabitate for years before deciding to have children, and often by that point, don't consider marriage as a necessary step. This can ultimately limit each spouse's legal options if they do later separate. Dividing property without a divorce settlement can get tricky.
But beyond that, there is another reason the falling divorce rates may be troubling, as highlighted recently by Washington Post Columnist Sharadha Bain.
Although divorce has in Western countries been a relatively easy and largely accepted process, it continues to be harshly stigmatized in growing Asian immigrant communities. In many of these sectors, arranged marriages are the norm, and even discussing potential strife within marriage is frowned upon.
While the divorce rate for all Americans is 44 percent, it's far lower for Indian American immigrants – somewhere between 1 and 15 percent. (Divorce is even less common in India, with a rate of about 1 for every 1,000 marriages.)
Women in particular who may choose to leave – even for reasons such as physical abuse, alcoholism or adultery – face shunning within their communities. They will be effectively barred from religious and social events, and their new social status could make it difficult for their children to later get married.
It's estimated there are approximately 3.5 million people of South Asian descent in the U.S. In Alabama, Birmingham has the highest population of Asian Indian immigrants in the state, with approximately 5,000. Huntsville is second, with 2,200. A recent story about the growing Asian Indian immigrant population in Alabama notes people are looking to open a company, purchase a business, pursue a technical career or find a job and a reasonable cost of living. Alabama is a good place to do all of those things.
Nationally, South Asians are among the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S. Roughly 70 percent of the marriages within this population are arranged, and many families continue to hold strong ties to their roots overseas. Although many may seemingly appear “Americanized,” with wealth, good educations and even Western-style clothing, there is still a great deal of deep traditionalism in these communities. There is a great deal of pressure for spouses to stay together.
What Bain argues is that within this context, what is needed is more divorce – not less. The lower divorce rate within these communities doesn't mean they have better partners or fewer problems. It means it's a lot harder for these individuals to separate.
We understand cases such as this require extraordinary care and consideration. We can help clients explore mediation and possibly the establishment of a marital agreement as an alternative to divorce. We are dedicated to ensuring our clients have the tools they need to start the next chapter of their lives.
The divorce rate is falling. Here's why that's bad news for some Americans. March 10, 2015, By Sharadha Bain, The Washington Post