Divorce Statistics in the U.S. and Irvine, California


Going through a divorce can be one of the most challenging times in an individual’s life.  It seems that people continue to divorce at record pace.  In Orange County, California, the divorce rate is much higher than the national average.  This article is intended to provide some general statistics about divorce but also provide context for these statistics in actual divorce practice.

Divorce Stats in the United States


General Figures

  • There are over 2.1 million marriages (i.e. 4.2 million married people) in the U.S.
  • 6.8 out of every 1,000 people are married.
  • 3.6 out of every 1,000 people get divorced.
  • The highest percentage of divorce occurs during the first eight years of marriage.
  • The odds of having a successful marriage decreases with the number of times a person has been previously married.
  • Only about 30% of third marriages are successful and do not lead to divorce.
  • In 2010, 42% of all marriages ended in divorce.
  • In 2005, 45% of all marriages ended in divorce.
  • Why the decrease in percentage of divorces from 2005 to 2010?  Several reasons: First, there was a recession in 2008 and people couldn’t afford to divorce.  Second, the population grew.
  • Divorced couples wait an average of at least 3 years before remarrying.
  • Do all states in the U.S. report divorce rates to the National Center for Health Statistics?  No.
  • Only under rare circumstances parties split from one household into two households upon divorce and both become better off financially.
  • Couples that disagree about money and family finances at least once per week, as opposed to those couples that disagreed one or less times per month about finances, are 30% more likely to divorce.  The likelihood of divorce increases with the amount of time couples argue about money.
  • The chances for divorce decrease significantly with the more education both spouses have.  Approximately 42% of couples with college educations divorce, while over 47% of those couples with less than a high school diploma divorce.
  • A 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center indicated that 53 percent of spouses reported “adequate” income as being an important factor in a satisfactory marriage, and 51 percent also placed emphasis on “good housing”.
  • Getting a divorce is much, much more difficult than getting married.
  • People that live in jurisdictions where it is more difficult to get a divorce stay married longer.

Interesting Divorce Facts in the U.S.

  • What are the 7 worst states to get a divorce in and why?  According to ABC News:
    • New York: The minimum processing time is 360 days.
    • Nebraska:  The minimum processing time is 420 days for a divorce.
    • California:  It can take 360 days to process a divorce, although it can be quicker depending on the circumstances.
    • Arkansas: One of the highest wait times for divorce in the country, it takes about 540 days to divorce.
    • South Carolina:  Requires one year of separation before a divorce can be filed.
    • Rhode Island:  Requires a whopping 510 days of processing time.
    • Vermont:  Requires 6 months of living completely apart.
  • Social media sites, such as Facebook, are mentioned in the pleadings of more than half of all divorce cases in the country.
  • Glynn Wolfe holds the record for the highest number of monogamous marriages (and thus divorces) with 29.
  • The divorce rate does not climb during a recession.  In fact, the opposite is true as the divorce rate falls during a significant downturn in the economy.
  • As many as 38% of married couples hold off on divorcing until after a recession.
  • The price of marriage licenses ranges from $6 to $115.
  • If you’re a same-sex couple that tried to get a marriage license from Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis and you were denied by her, you saved $6 by not being allowed to purchase your license.
  • According to the Wall Street Journal, the rate of premarital agreements signed by couples before marriage has increased exponentially.
  • The most common issue addressed in prenuptial agreements is protecting separate property (80% of prenups).
  • According to an American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers’ (AAML) survey, 77% of premarital agreements contain terms relating to spousal support (alimony).
  • A Swedish study recently released a study that found that the “A-allele” gene in a woman’s body may cause a woman to have difficulty bonding with others (leading to divorce or not getting married in the first place) when the gene has a variation in the oxytocin receptor.
  • 33% of states allow for divorce based on one party’s “fault”.
  • Russia has the highest divorce rate in the world for a large nation, even higher than the U.S.
  • The Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that divorce rates have risen significantly since the women’s liberation movement in the mid-1900s.
  • A 2012 Norwegian study found that couples that shared housework, as opposed to the wife doing all the housework, were 50% more likely to divorce.
  • A University of Michigan study released in 2012 found that when a husband develops a good relationship with the wife’s parents, the couple is 20% less likely to divorce.
  • The same Michigan study found that when a wife develops a good relationship with the husband’s parents, the couple is 20% more likely to divorce.
  • What are the states with the highest divorce rates?
    • Alaska
    • Oklahoma
    • Maine
    • Kentucky
    • Alabama
    • Arkansas
  • What are the cities with the highest divorce rates?  In order they are:
    • Panama City, FL
    • Sierra Vista, AZ
    • Charleston, WV
    • Medford, OR
    • Reno, NV
    • Pueblo, CO
  • Four out of the top ten cities in the U.S. with the highest divorce rate are in Florida.

Stats for Divorce Lawyers in the U.S.

  • Divorce lawyers need seven years of education after high school to become licensed to practice law (4 years of undergraduate study and 3 years of law school).
  • Is it important to hire a divorce lawyer with business acumen?  Yes.  The majority of divorce deals with financial issues, including child and spousal support, business income, dividing assets, and similar issues.  The greater business skill and training a divorce lawyer has, the better.
  • Like other attorneys, divorce lawyers that are solo practitioners don’t make as much money as you think, and their rate of pay has actually decreased significantly since 1988 adjusting for inflation.
  • The place most densely populated with divorce attorneys?  New York City, NY.

Divorce Stats in California


  • There are 1.193 million divorced men living in California.
  • There are 1.697 million divorced women living in California.
  • There are 212,000 separated men and 414,000 separated women living in California.
  • For couples over 50 years old, spousal support (alimony) is the biggest fight in a divorce action.
  • There has been a significant increase in evidence coming in to divorce case litigation that is derived from texts or usage of apps on cell phones.
  • California does not report divorce statistics to the federal government to be used in the National Center for Health Statistics surveys.
  • On January 1, 1970, California became the first state in the country to require divorces to be based on “no fault” (i.e. irreconcilable differences).
  • The law requires spouses to treat each other like business partners and each has a fiduciary duty to the other.
  • A spouse’s fiduciary duty continues throughout a divorce case and lasts until a judgment is entered.
  • One spouse must live in California for at least 6 months before a divorce can be filed.
  • California divorce courts have the jurisdiction to divide property owned by the parties outside of California (called “quasi-community” property).
  • California courts do not have power over a spouse that does not live in California, was not served in California, and does not meet the “minimum contacts test” under Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. 410.10.
  • When both spouses are alcoholics and living in California, the couple is three times more likely to divorce.
  • The ten cities in California with the highest divorce rate are:

1. Santa Monica
2. Santa Barbara
3. Napa
4. Pasadena
5. Sacramento
6. Newport Beach
7. Oakland
8. Livermore
9. San Mateo
10. El Cajon

  • Spouses in California hold a “marital privilege”, which prevents them from being forced to testify against the other in any civil or criminal case.
  • There is no “common law marriage” in California, although case law does allow a rare type of case called a “Marvin” action where a couple has resided together and acted like a married couple.
  • California also allows for a “putative” spouse to file under Fam. Code Section 2251 under certain circumstances, even though the parties weren’t married.
  • Upon the filing of every divorce case (dissolution of marriage), automatic restraining orders are put into place.  Approximately 10% or more of divorce litigants violate those orders.

How many divorces happen in California each year?

The U.S. Census Bureau provides estimates on the total divorces in California during each year. Here is the breakdown:

94,509 men divorced that year
111,013 women divorced that year
Total: 205,522 people

102,669 men divorced that year
113,803 women divorced that year
Total: 216,472 people

109,549 men divorced that year
127,033 women divorced that year
Total: 236,582 people

111,791 men divorced that year
121,956 women divorced that year
Total: 233,747 people

115,216 men divorced that year
124,512 women divorced that year
Total: 239,728 people

105,352 men divorced that year
129,370 women divorced that year
Total: 234,722 people

Divorce Statistics in Orange County

Orange County Divorce Attorney

  • Orange County, California has one of the highest divorce rates in the country.
  • There are approximately 1 million households in the County.  The average size of an OC family is 3.53.
  • There are 86,657 divorced men living in Orange County.
  • There are 136,252 divorced women living in Orange County.
  • On average, 33 people file for divorce every day in Orange County.
  • There are approximately 2,000 divorce attorneys in Orange County.  Some are better than others.  Check out this guide about selecting the right divorce attorney for you.
  • Each Orange County Family Law judge at the Lamoreaux Justice Center is responsible for approximately 1,500 cases every year.
  • Newport Beach, CA has the highest divorce rate in Orange County.
  • The Ocean Front Gazebo at Heisler Park in Laguna Beach is one of the best and cheapest places to get married in Orange County.
  • There are approximately 1.7 million residents in Orange County living in 23 cities or unincorporated areas.
  • The Orange County Fire Authority’s employee divorce rate is 29%, more than double that of other fire departments.

Top Reasons for a High Divorce Rate in Orange County

  1. Wealth. More people in CA can afford the fees associated with a divorce.
  2. Society. Divorces are more acceptable, and more of a commonplace now.
  3. Cohabitation. Couples living together before marriage has grown in popularity. Studies show that living together before marriage can increase the chances of divorce.
  4. No-fault. After the 1950’s, couples no longer needed to prove that one person was responsible for the separation.
  5. Repeat Divorce. Studies show that people that have already been divorced have a higher chance to get divorced again. Also, children of divorced families have a high chance to get divorced themselves.

An Irvine Divorce Attorney’s Comments on these Statistics

  • While it may be true that there are approximately 86,000 divorced men compared to 136,000 women living in Orange County, half of our clients are women and half are men.  It appears that men are more likely to leave Orange County (and the state of California for that matter) after the dissolution of marriage case ends.
  • The fact that each divorce judge in Orange County has approximately 1,500 cases on their docket each year shows the kind of stress the court is under.  It is difficult to complete a case by having a trial in Orange County because of this issue.  We sometimes recommend alternative dispute resolution to clients as an option, including mediation and “removing” the case to a private judge to speed things along.  For a guide about speeding up divorce cases in Irvine, click here.

Weird & Interesting Divorce Fact Patterns

While practicing law over a span of more than a decade, with a number of specialized attorneys that only practice family law, we have come across some very interesting divorces.  Here are a couple of interesting fact patterns we have seen in divorce and family law cases:

  • The longest time between the separation of spouses and the actual filing of a divorce petition is 42 years, in a case handled by one of our partner attorneys.  The parties separated in 1973 and the husband filed for divorce in 2015.
  • In a case where a wife abandoned the parties’ marital residence for more than 25 years, she then returned and filed for divorce seeking her community property interest in the family residence.
  • We handled a second divorce for a couple that was married once, divorced, then remarried and divorced for the second time.
  • We have litigated a number of cases for celebrities.

For more information, contact our office today.