Why Are Women More Likely to File for Divorce?
The overall trends in divorce rates in New Jersey show that while the divorce rate for first-time marriages is less than the often-cited 50%, falling instead between 43% and 46%, this is only part of the picture. For example, older couples are more likely to choose to divorce than they were in the past. Other aspects of marriage and divorce have also changed over time, and women are now more likely than men to file for divorce. Why do women file around two-thirds of all divorce petitions?
Women Initiate Most Divorces
When people in opposite-sex marriages file for divorce, two-thirds of the time, the filing was initiated by the wife. This statistic holds up across the United States, including among various cultures, religions and ethnicities, and divorce lawyers widely report this phenomenon anecdotally. This contrasts with perspectives on marriage among single people, where women are more likely to state that they are seeking marriage than men. In addition, women in dating and other non-marital relationships are not more likely to break up with their partners, with both men and women exhibiting approximately the same amount of satisfaction with their relationships.
Historically, women have suffered a severe blow through divorce, and many of the protections that are now built into law in a gender-neutral way, such as child support and alimony, were originally created in order to protect women left penniless following an unwanted divorce. Of course, as women have entered the workforce and as more people marry later in life to partners of approximately the same income level and professional standing, this disparity between men and women after divorce has become less of a factor over time. This means that many of the practical and social concerns that held women in unhappy relationships in the past are less likely to pose such a barrier today.
The Effects of Divorce on Men and Women
Divorce can be a challenging time for almost everyone. While you can work with a family law attorney on the legal process, the divorce itself can be emotionally and personally draining. There is a significant financial cost, and it is more expensive to live a solo life. This is aside from the negotiations, hearings and other aspects of the divorce handled alongside a divorce attorney. Many couples share friendships, and the social aspects of divorce can also be challenging. For parents, it can be particularly difficult to transition to co-parenting.
All of these difficulties come with almost every divorce, including those without abuse, infidelity or other extreme conflicts. The process of ending a marriage is itself difficult and needs time to process. Overall, women tend to experience a bigger financial impact after a divorce, and mothers are likely to have to share parenting time or physical child custody. Despite these challenges, women and men both tend to report equal levels of satisfaction with their lives in the years following a divorce.
Divorce and Social Changes
Many have noted that social changes mean that women are freer to seek a wanted divorce than they were even in the relatively recent past. Women are much less likely to be reliant on men to provide income and necessities for life and are far more likely to seek partners of a similar level of professional accomplishment. Given that more people are marrying and having children later in life than they did in the past, these women are likely to already have established themselves in their careers and have their own financial resources.
Birth control and family planning mean that people may plan or limit their choices to have children, and both mothers and fathers are likely to share in the tasks and responsibilities of raising their offspring. However, these social changes can also highlight the unhappiness of some women in their marriage. If they find that they are carrying a heavier burden of homemaking and child-rearing while also serving as equal financial partners in the relationship, this can lead to a sense of inequality and discontent in the marriage. Many women come to family lawyers because they are unhappy as a breadwinner in the relationship who is also expected to manage the family emotionally, deal with social obligations and play the primary role in cleaning, cooking and other household chores.
This is certainly not the case for all marriages; however, family law attorneys encounter marriages with serious fissures when one or both parties decide to seek a divorce. Relationships with high levels of stereotypical behavior, resentment of one party by the other or unequal distribution of labor are also frequently stressful, leading to arguments, unhappiness and, eventually, divorce.
What Improves Marital Happiness?
Many women wind up calling a divorce lawyer because of these circumstances, although every divorce is unique. This does not mean that the social changes that lead to these conflicts are negative, but simply that marriages that do not adapt to these changes or which seek to imitate prior generations while also living in a new society are more likely to experience various forms of stress.
Couples that want to avoid a divorce and improve marital happiness for both partners can benefit from explicitly dividing household labor, whether these tasks fall along traditionally gendered lines or not, in a way that respects both parties’ employment and other commitments. In much the same way, explicitly discussing and sharing child care responsibilities can help to remove the stress of managing those responsibilities from one parent, often the mother. Open conversation about expectations can help to relieve stress or a sense of feeling unheard. If one parent is staying at home with the children, both parents can discuss together what this means for the future and how long they expect it to continue.
Preparing for Life After Divorce
Of course, people decide to divorce for a wide variety of reasons. Many of them cannot be tied directly to changing social expectations or an overly traditional approach to gender roles. Marriage can be very different than people expect, and the pressures of two high-powered careers may also simply drive people in separate directions. When women or men consider divorce, it is important to prepare for the changes that it can bring to daily life.
For parents, making the decision to divorce is often especially challenging because they will move from raising a child together to some form of shared physical custody and parenting time. People who are able to move from their romantic relationship into a new co-parenting relationship may be better able to support their children through the changes to come.
Divorce also brings major financial and budgeting changes for almost everyone. During property division, people may wind up splitting their retirement accounts and other major assets, selling off the marital home and dividing up credit card debts and other liabilities. Making a financial plan for life as a single person can help to prevent a serious financial crisis after the divorce.
There are many ways to proceed with the divorce itself, and your family lawyer can advise you on the best options for your particular case. When people are unable to reach an agreement, they may need to go to litigation, but many couples are able to reach a marital settlement more quickly and easily through negotiations, mediation or a collaborative divorce.
Thinking About a New Jersey Divorce?
If you have begun to consider divorce for these reasons or any other, it can be particularly important to get the practical legal advice that you need. There are many significant financial and legal changes that come with a divorce, and a divorce attorney can provide guidance throughout the process. Contact the experienced New Jersey divorce lawyers at Lawrence Law by calling 908-645-1000 or using our easy online form for an initial consultation at our Red Bank and Watchung offices.