No-Fault Divorce at Fault for Divorce Increase

From the Family Research Council.

“Between 1960 and 1980, most states adopted some version of no-fault divorce – and the U.S. divorce rate roughly doubled. As Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, concludes in a new report, the connection is no coincidence. Gallagher examined all the empirical research since 1995 that looked at the impact of no-fault divorce laws on divorce rates. She found that 17 of 24 recent empirical studies find that the introduction of no-fault divorce laws increased the divorce rate. Most studies estimate no-fault divorce increased divorce rates on the order of 5 to 30 percent. Gallagher also notes that couples respond to the increased divorce risk from no-fault divorce law by delaying or forgoing marriages altogether. This might be considered a positive outcome if unilateral divorce merely discouraged divorce-prone couples from marrying. But the real result is that couples are choosing to cohabitate and have children out of wedlock rather than enter into a union that can be so easily broken. As Gallagher concludes, “The premise of many family law scholars–that legal change is only a response to underlying cultural shifts and never an independent cause–is difficult to reconcile with either economic theory or existing empirical research. Changing divorce law can affect the divorce rate, and likely the rate of unmarried childbearing and cohabitation as well.”


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