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Surprising Facts about Divorce in the U.S.


Published on February 25th, 2022

Divorce laws and trends say a lot about the culture they represent. Although people often think of the law as static, the story of divorce in the U.S. is full of twists and turns. Much follows the pendulum swing of social behavior and beliefs of the times. Take a look at some interesting facts about divorce in this country, past and present.

The American Revolution Helped Normalize Divorce in the U.S.

Not unlike the countercultural era of the 1960s, the ideology associated with the American Revolution had an impact on social norms following the formation of this country. One of those impacts was an increase in divorce rates in the 1820s and 1830s. Typically, proof of physical cruelty or adultery was still required. However, omnibus clauses gave courts at the time more leeway in granting divorce requests.

Abraham Lincoln Helped Women Get Divorced in Illinois

Initially, Illinois was ahead of the times when it came to divorce laws, thanks in part to Abraham Lincoln, who was willing to assist people stuck in bad marriages. When Illinois gained statehood in 1818, divorces could be granted by either the courts or the state legislature, although the rules for obtaining one were much stricter than they are today. It was a complicated process that might require citizens to petition the legislature, but alimony and child support settlements were not uncommon.

Before becoming the country’s 16th president, Lincoln represented more than 120 litigants in divorce cases, according to the Lincoln Legal Papers project – many of them women. In one case in 1840, he petitioned to allow a widow to divorce her new husband on the grounds that he had abandoned her and her children six days into their marriage. However, by 1840 the state’s General Assembly had stopped taking up divorce-related issues.

Ronald Reagan Signed the Country’s First No-Fault Divorce Bill

Many states – Illinois included – no longer require couples to declare spousal wrongdoing when seeking a divorce. This is known as a “no-fault” divorce. According to National Affairs, Reagan’s first wife had wrongly accused him of mental cruelty when pursuing a divorce from him before his political career began. The bill, signed in 1969, was intended to minimize the use of deception as a means of having a divorce granted by a court.

Reagan Was Also the Nation’s Only Divorced President

There seems to be an unspoken rule that you can’t be both single and divorced to be a U.S. president. However, we have had a single president (James Buchanan), as well as a divorced president. By the time he was elected, of course, Reagan had remarried.

Your Spouse Can’t Prevent the Divorce from Proceeding

Have you ever heard that someone’s spouse wouldn’t give him or her a divorce? It’s harder to pull that off nowadays.

A common misconception is that spouses can block a divorce by simply not agreeing to sign the papers. This notion may stem from a time in the not-too-distant past (see “no-fault” divorce above) when divorces were more difficult to obtain than they are today. While an angry or uncooperative partner can certainly make the process more difficult and stressful, they can’t legally prevent the divorce from occurring. Generally, the spouse seeking the divorce may still proceed with the petition.

More Couples Divorce in the Spring and Summer

There are times of the year when divorce is in the air, and times when the opposite is true. Research by the University of Washington points to biannual spikes in divorce filings. August and March are the most common months in which people file for divorce. Conversely, couples tend to avoid getting divorced as the holidays approach in November and December and put off the decision until afterward.

The Third Time Isn’t Necessarily the Charm

People may get wiser as they get older, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to a lasting marriage. Statistics show that second marriages are less likely to last than first marriages – and even more so with third marriages.

Billions in Child Support Have Gone Unpaid

The U.S. is home to some pretty strict parenting rules. But without the assistance of a good family lawyer and a document spelling out the finer details, it can be hard to enforce some of those rules.

This fact has led to billions of dollars in unpaid child support. Many child support payments are evaded altogether, while others are partially paid. One likely reason is that a high percentage of these parents lack a custodial order that would determine what child-related expenses each parent is expected to cover.

The family law attorneys at Davis Friedman can walk you through the divorce filing process and assist with any other aspect of your divorce. Call 312-782-2220 to schedule a meeting with an attorney who will work with you to ensure the best outcome for your case.

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