Causes of Divorce

Part of Real World Divorce: web edition | Kindle edition

What causes divorce? The simplest explanation that we've heard came from a woman in her 50s, talking about the demise of her child-free second marriage: "My husband wanted to spend more time with his honey." What if there are children? "You just need one parent who cares more about him or herself than about the kids," responded one of our lawyers, "plus a co-parent who can pay alimony and child support, and a retainer for me."

"I'm doing it for the kids"

Suppose that, if parents don't get along then children are better off spending time with each parent separately. In that case Parent A could file a divorce lawsuit against a child's Parent B out of altruistic concern for the child. The Divorce Culture (Barbara Dafoe Whitehead 1996) summarizes the wave of popular books and academic research that followed the implementation of no-fault divorce across America:

According to a representative 1974 book, The Courage to Divorce, "divorce can liberate children." Its authors, social workers Susan Gettleman and Janet Markowitz, emphasize the psychological goods and benefits for children. … The authors approving cite one mother's positive announcement of divorce: "Children, I have good news for all of us. There is going to be more happiness in this house from now on."

The Courage to Divorce also claims that divorce will result in better relationships between nonresidential fathers and children, noting that divorced fathers can pay more attention to their children than unhappily married fathers. … divorced fathers have visitation privileges which provide "a number of undisturbed hours in which parent and child may be left alone with each other, to share thoughts, feelings and experiences." As for the concern that father-absence is harmful to boys, it is exaggerated. "When fathers are not available, friends, relatives, teachers and counselors can provide ample opportunity for youngsters to model themselves after a like-sexed adult."

… marital dissolution can spur the career development and economic advancement of divorced mothers: "Divorce often impels a nonworking wife into gainful employment, while child-support payments (and often even alimony) continue. This may mean augmented income for the wife and children."

… Most influentially, this rationale established a new measure of child well-being: the individual marital satisfaction of each parent. … the new view tied children's interests to the emotional well-being of each parent but particularly of the mother. … This rationale for divorce also offered a reprieve from the ethical imperative for parents to preserve the marriage for the children's sake. In their intimate and family relationships, parents' first responsibility was to themselves; if they sought their own satisfactions, then their children's happiness would follow.

At least for a couple of decades, Americans could convince themselves that filing a divorce lawsuit was an unselfish act to benefit children. The Divorce Culture reports that statistical studies eventually made this position untenable:

In 1989 clinical psychologist Judith Wallerstein and coauthor Sandra Blakeslee published the results of a fifteen-year study of 60 divorcing parents and their 131 children… these new studies offered a much more qualified and sober appraisal of divorce's impact on children. They suggested that divorce carries multiple risks and losses for children… Second-wave thinking also identified divorce as an important risk factor for school dropout, problem behaviors, lower education and job achievement, and likelihood of teenage parenthood that could only partly be explained by income effects."

Some of the early thinking was "if kids recover from the death of a parent then losing a father via litigation shouldn't be any worse." The Divorce Culture:

The second-wave research also overturned the notion that death and divorce represent similar kinds of loss for the children. … the death of a parent is commonly recognized as a tragic loss and brings an outpouring of assistance … the widowed parent can share in the child's grief… Thus, although the child's loss is profound, the sense of connectedness to the parent is not broken by death. Divorce, on the other hand, can disrupt a child's relationship with a living parent and often create unresolved feelings of loss and grief that are not shared by the other parent. In a society permissive toward divorce, the child's experience of divorce is not viewed unambiguously and thus does not elicit outpourings of sympathy and support.

The conclusion of the research was that about 85-90 percent of children whose parents divorced were worse off than if the parents had stayed together despite a lack of affection. The children for whom divorce was beneficial were those whose parents were in marriages "marked by physical violence or severe abuse."

What happened when researchers simply asked children? "Child Custody, Access, and Parental Responsibility" (Kruk 2008; University of British Columbia):

Wallerstein and Kelly [1980] found that no children under the age of thirteen in their sample wanted the divorce to happen. Mitchell (1985) found similar results: less than half of the children in her sample were even aware of any parental conflict within the marriage, and even those who had been aware of conflict thought their family life to have been happy and did not view their parents’ conflict as a sufficient reason to divorce. … Wallerstein and Kelly also found that the degree of conflict within the marriage prior to the divorce was not related to children’s post-divorce adjustment: marriages that were unhappy for the adults were generally perceived as comforting and gratifying for the children."

If children are so damaged by divorce, why do states make it so easy and often, so profitable? The Divorce Culture:

… it is not scholarly opinion that has been truly decisive in shifting the focus away from children. There are stronger forces working against any public consensus that divorce poses a serious threat to the young. One is the steady entrenchment of divorce as a way of life. … But it is not simply habituation to divorce that weakens concern for the well-being of children. It is also the sense of divorce as an adult entitlement that has to be protected against challenge, criticism, or infringement. The entire framework for thinking about divorce has come to be shaped by this sense of entitlement, so that expressions of concern about children are often angrily rejected as unfeeling attacks on divorced individuals. .. The culture of divorce recruits social support, compassion, and sympathy for the divorcing grown-ups and maintains a discreet silence about the plight of the children.

One lawyer summed it up with "the right to unilateral divorce came about at the same time as the right to abortion. If you have the right to kill your child then of course you also have the right to ruin your child's life by suing his father."

A reader comment: "Child support plaintiffs say they care about their kids like fat guys say they want to hit the gym and lose weight. It may actually be in the back of their mind but first another dozen donuts from the drive-thru…"

"I actually am doing it for the kids"

Back in 2000, the American Law and Economics Review paper "These Boots are Made for Walking: Why Most Divorce Filers are Women" (Brinig and Allen) concluded that it was the anticipation of child custody and child support that motivated lawsuits:

Our interviews and data show that matters were much the same a decade later. We examined all 243 divorce cases filed in Middlesex County, Massachusetts in May 2011. Excluding a single case involving a same-sex couple, 72.3 percent of the cases were filed by women. I.e., a woman was more than 2.5 times more likely to file a divorce lawsuit as a man. This is in a jurisdiction where the woman can expect to win sole custody and, for a given level of defendant income, roughly twice the level of child support profit as in the average U.S. state.

"When a woman says that they she filed a divorce lawsuit for the kids," one lawyer noted. "She means that she did it to get the kids, and the house and cash that come with them."

"It worked for my neighbor"

The anecdotal experience of litigators confirms Brinig and Allen's results from 2000 and from 2011. "A lot of potential clients come to my office after hearing about a big score by a friend or neighbor," noted a Massachusetts attorney. "When I tell the prospect that the facts of her case are different and she is likely to end up with a smaller number, if that number isn't sufficient for her to maintain her lifestyle, she'll typically reconsider the idea of suing. If that number will provide a better material lifestyle than what she enjoys presently, she'll write me a $25,000 retainer check on the spot. A lot of men in Massachusetts would be surprised to find out that they are still married only because they aren't wealthy enough to be worth suing."

An important cause of divorce is… divorce

In "A Comparison of High- and Low-Distress Marriages and End in Divorce" (Amato and Hohmann-Marriott 2007; Journal of Marriage and Family 69) the authors look at 509 divorced couples and a control group of continuously married couples. They divided the divorced couples into two groups: "high-distress" (really hate each other) and "low-distress" (moderately disappointed with married life). It turned out that the people who didn't truly hate each and still divorced actually were happier in their marriage than the average couple who stayed married. They also interacted more. Why did they get divorced then, while the control group stayed married? The researchers refer to a "low level of commitment" to being married. I.e., a person who isn't committed to the idea of marriage will tend to repudiate his or her marriage vows if a more attractive alternative, such as collecting court-ordered alimony or child support and catching up with a high school lover on Facebook, presents itself.

What are the factors that Professors Amato and Hohmann-Marriott found that predict a low level of commitment? It turns out that a parental divorce for either spouse predicts a divorce for both happily and unhappily married couples. Another factor is the presence of stepchildren. So a previous parental or spousal divorce tends to generate additional divorces.

What if the cause is marriage?

An aviation convention attendee: "I don’t understand how the institution of marriage can possibly work today because it is predicted on the idea that people won’t change." How had his former wife changed? When they got married she was a non-practicing non-believing Catholic. She eventually developed three passions: (1) Evangelical Christianity, (2) drinking alcohol, and (3) having sex with a boyfriend from prior to the marriage. Via a divorce lawsuit, she was able to get paid for indulging in these new passions, confirming a litigator's theory that "Americans can’t resist the opportunity to have sex with new partner(s) while cashing checks from a former sex partner."

In the age of personal fulfillment for adults described in the History chapter, is the concept of a lifelong marriage obsolete? One attorney, noting that humans need both food and sex, compared the marriage commitment to promising to eat in the same restaurant for every meal for the rest of one's life, without any guarantee regarding the quality or quantity of the food to be served. If the restaurant shuts down, the person who agreed to that commitment and goes to a different restaurant is now an "adulterer."

Some reader comments on a weblog posting regarding why it was tough to find a match for a "well-educated woman in her late 30s":

There is something seriously wrong with modern Western culture where women (especially educated and intelligent women who should be contributing to the gene pool) put off marriage until their window of fertility is gone or almost gone. … Western women seem to think they have all the time in the world so they spend their 20s and 30s pursuing education and career and avoiding long term committed relationships. But they don’t – life is short and the window of fertility (not to mention the age of peak attractiveness to mates) even shorter. Feminist ideology has convinced women that they can do everything that men can do (and if they can’t it’s only due to sexism) but biology doesn’t care about feminism.

The marriage contract is a misandric contract that gives women the power to destroy men’s lives. Leveraged with laws like VAWA and the new and upcoming "Affirmative Consent", you have to be either very brave or very ignorant to give women any legal or financial power over your life. Signing the marriage contract is the most foolish thing a man can do. It’s right up there with driving drunk, shooting heroin and gambling away your life savings in Las Vegas. Yet every year, around a million men in the US alone sign up for the life destruction marriage often brings men.

these women show poor life-planning strategies. But in fairness to them, they were just following the pre-ordained feminist narrative they are told to follow. The next generation (current 20-somethings) is going to be absolutely devastated by the time they reach their late 30s. The logical conclusion for all of this is a complete breakdown number of marriages, a society fillled with state-sponsorsed single mothers, a batchelor tax on single men to get them to pay for these single mothers, and a lot of very sexually frustrated beta and omega males. It won’t be pretty.

I’m a divorced guy in his early 50’s. I managed to slip out of the marriage without costing anything, as all of my assets were acquired pre-marriage. I take care of my son and directly pay his costs, so no child care. I honestly had no idea what to expect of dating after 15 years of marriage. The objective used to be to find a fine woman with potential, demonstrate your potential, get married, have kids, achieve your potential, grow older and retire together. Now I’m already retired, have little interest in more kids, have achieved my potential and the last thing on earth I want is to get married again. Here’s the fishing pond I’ve been presented with over the last few years: (1) 29 year old pretty woman, a little overweight, three very small kids and a very actively pain in the ass ex husband. Huge financial problems, … (2) Vast array of 40-50-somethings I used to date or were acquainted with, most on their second or third divorce, strings of kids, own the divorce house but can’t take care of it, wanting marriage and security, … (3) A wealthy woman who siphoned off a very expensive house, alimony and big child support from her ex. Isn’t interested in remarriage. Kids are about to go to college. Likes to burn through money, but the child support is going to run out soon. … its kinda nice to be able to do whatever you want to do every day, exactly the way you want to do it.

why would a man need a women these days? Consider the risk of permanent serfdom via alimony/child support … Even if she is highly educated and employable (ie an equal partner), most of the time she will drop out of the work force and become a liability for the man and his retirement prospects … even if the wife stays home, current expectations dictate it is not enough for a man to simply be a provider from 9-to-5 but to be a good husband he must also take on the parenting shift from 5-to-9 (not to mention clean the house and cook the food in his free time as well).

I’m telling my daughters to marry young, as soon they can find a good man. I’m telling them to stay away from careers that might interfere with that. I’m telling my son to get established in his career, then find a younger woman to give him children. If he’s smart, in his mid 20s he’ll be looking for a woman at least 5 years younger. I’m also telling him that taking out a marriage license is a bad idea.

These wilted ovaries are obviously the harvest of feminism. These women got what they wanted: they got "careers," the Sex in the City dating game, and they got to spend lots of their credit card money at department stores. The women that opted to be mothers are now bringing their own girls to soccer games and signing up for a master’s degree.

If I wanted to commit genocide against a population the first thing I would do would be to encourage their women to pursue high debt college degrees in their fertile years while handicapping the men in employment via an affirmative action type program. Then I would push for laws to make birth control free and push TV shows that show how "happy" single 40 year old women are while they pursue imaginary careers in manhattan for women’s fashion magazines all while being pursued by high income tall attractive men… just like Sex and the City come to think of it….. I would then pass laws that make it insane for any man to marry. … I would also then push for open borders of higher fertility populations to finish them off….. This is how I would commit genocide against a group i didn’t like…

I can give you a few reasons: 1. I had a lovely long term gf who gave great sex for 10 years, from the age of 23 to 33. Then bed death syndrome. … 2. Over the years, I’ve had three friends [commit] suicide after horrible divorces. They weren’t women. 3. The marriage contract was invented to keep women as property to enforce chivalry under feudal systems. We now have a plutocracy who loves watching foolish men be divorce raped of their balls, power, and wealth. 4. The sexual revolution made everyone sexual free agents. No one owns anyone, therefore marriage is obsolete. Women have the right to fuck whoever they want, what is the point of owning pussy? 5. As a result, non-white populations will eventually out-breed and conquer the silly white people. Enjoy the decline.

Put aside the tilted odds in the divorce racket, one can say things in general are better for both men and women than in the past. Women no longer have to marry men in order to have a roof over their heads. The social pressure to marry and have kids is less, so women have the freedom to really control their life now. The question is, now that they are given the freedom of choice, are they willing to accept the consequences of their choices? Or are they going to continue thinking, like teenagers, that they can have it all?

why pay for the cow when you get the milk and filet mignon for free?

I’m a relatively successful man in my mid-30s. Top college, lots of travel, cool life experiences, respectable job, six-pack still intact. I do not date women older than 26. ...  I do not date single moms. Ever. I’m here to care for my own offspring, not someone else’s. I do not date women my age because they’re in a rush (they’ve finally realized the clock is ticking) and their expectations are too high. … Women have a golden decade from 15-25. If they waste it and the years after it somewhere on the slut-career spectrum, that’s on them. I’m not here to pick up the tab for their shitty life decisions. Of my close friends who are my age, half that have gotten married are now divorced. One was on the verge of suicide afterwards. Several are on their second marriage because they’re gluttons for punishment. Not one of them wouldn’t trade places with me if they were given the chance.

Sure men like young women. Duh. Women like young men too. A 55 year old man wants to get young women but he can’t unless he’s rich. So young women may have sex with him but secretly hate him. All these men who think that they are sexually attractive to females forever are delusional. Men have an expiration date as well. … Young women are attracted to young, virile males because they produce healthy offspring. All these women who have children with older men compromise the health of their offspring. In the wild, healthy young males get to have all the females. Old bucks are driven out. That’s life.


Lawyers in every jurisdiction offering no-fault divorce told us that the commitment aspect of marriage was meaningless: "Marriage lasts until one spouse figures out that he or she can be better off by getting rid of the other spouse."