« 2016 Election and random predictors | Main | They're Coming for Your Cars... »

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fact or Fiction: Women More Likely to File for Divorce

The holiday season brings about a lot of divorces in the New Year.  Often, it’s because either people delay divorce in order not to ruin the holidays, or they spend so much time together that they realize it’s over.  

There has been much said about the fact that it is women asking for divorce.  The speculation is that women become unhappier and benefit less from marriage than men, often due to the traditional gender roles that set in after marriage.  Interestingly, men and women are said to end non-marital relationships at an equal rate.

So, is it true that most divorce initiators were women?

You bet.  In 79 of the 109 divorce cases in my data set consisting of several months of divorce cases from 2008 in Marion County involving children, the wife filed for divorce.

Only 7 of the 109 divorcing couples had adultery in the marriage and only 7 of 109 couples had drug or alcohol issues. 

Posted by Margaret Ryznar on November 21, 2016 at 07:52 AM | Permalink


I'll check out Dalrock's blog; rebb, thanks for the note--indeed, there is some thought that goes into the filings, and the fact that they are very public.

Posted by: Margaret Ryznar | Nov 23, 2016 2:12:46 AM

Just be sure to keep in mind that the allegations in the divorce filings do not always represent the reality of the demise of the relationship. Sadly, I know quite a few people who divorced because of adultury but did not want that in the public filing so the divorce petition instead read something about incompatibility or separation.

Posted by: rebb | Nov 22, 2016 8:48:47 PM

Dalrock's blog has dug into the data on this. Among his conclusions are: (1) Declining divorce rates as women age is consistent with women substituting child support for marriage, and inconsistent with men abandoning their aging wives (the latter being an apex fallacy). (2) This pattern is prevalent worldwide, not US-specific (3) Increasing age of first marriage has decimated the population of eligible bachelors; to describe marriage-minded women's predicament as a "men's strike" understates the problem. (4) There are specific strategies available to succeed in family life, but the pablum offered by popular culture (and the linked article in the post, BTW) is counterproductive; even *churches* do a poor job. (5) The data-driven/measurable-result approach of the "pick-up artist" community, even when it is morally bereft, is one of the best guides to true relationship dynamics.

Posted by: M. Rad. | Nov 22, 2016 10:19:03 AM

Hi, all. Monica--yes, I think that is very good partial explanation for these numbers--that when the parties agree to a divorce, sometimes they also agree that the woman will be the first to file. John, I would say that Indiana has pretty strict alimony laws--up to 3 years of alimony if the lower income spouse needs to refresh skills to re-enter the workforce (but more if that spouse or the child has health issues). As a result, out of 108 cases in my data set, the courts awarded maintenance (alimony) only in 3 cases. Indiana does have a presumption of equal division of property division (meaning all property acquired up to the time of the divorce filing), so that property does tend to get distributed 50/50, with room for judicial discretion if a different distribution would be more fair. Child support is separate from marriage/divorce, and would be owed by the noncustodial parent regardless of whether there had been a marriage or not. In sum, I am not sure divorce is a good financial move for anyone if we are just purely looking at the finances. But, I do realize that some divorcing parties may perceive it differently before the divorce (causing them to act or negotiate differently), and then they are disappointed when their expectations are not met (and I think this goes both for the lower-income and higher-income spouses). gdanning- yes, this is just 1 data set from 1 county at 1 time. So, I would agree that we should look at my data as just another data point in the big picture of what's happening in family law today. Still, I have been personally surprised with (spoiler alert) how conformist Indiana is to the national trends.

Posted by: Margaret Ryznar | Nov 21, 2016 6:41:45 PM

In my hometown, a city in Kansas, it was considered a courtesy to allow the wife to file for the divorce regardless of who was actually wanting or initiating the unraveling. The reason was face-saving, to allow her to avoid a presumption of "being left" and heavily gendered stigma. (Divorce filings were listed in the local paper, like the police blotter, and everyone read them.) I wonder if similar local mores and customs are reflected in the data you reference.

Posted by: Monica Eppinger | Nov 21, 2016 1:01:53 PM

Well, wait a minute. Do we have any reason to think that a dataset composed solely of divorces filed in Marion County involving children are representative of divorces filed in the US as a whole, and of all divorces, including those without children?

Posted by: gdanning | Nov 21, 2016 11:48:00 AM

Another theory is that the divorce process itself is more favorable towards women. A more favorable BANTA for one party makes it more likely that party will be the one to walk away from any particular negotiation.

Posted by: john | Nov 21, 2016 11:19:35 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.