In 2010, a study by the National Vital Statistics Report and the U.S. Census Bureau calculated the number of divorces by state. It found that married couples in Massachusetts stayed together the most, with only 1.8 marriages dissolved for every 1,000 people.
For states whose rates of divorce were the highest, some of the study's results were intriguing. Many states with high rates of divorce are in areas of the country traditionally believed to be socially conservative. A closer look at the data show, however, that that's not a determining factor in keeping most couples together.
According to the study, one of the most common reasons for divorce is financial stress. Many states with the highest rates of divorce are in areas hardest hit by the recession, and financial hardships cause divorce rates to climb. While some states have a protracted legal process that couples are required to negotiate before splitting up, some have made dissolving a union downright easy. A few of the states fitting this description appear on the list, as well.
So, what are the states with the highest rates of divorce in America? Click ahead and find out.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 8 August 2011
Maine is the only state in New England to appear in the list with the highest incidence of divorce. In fact, it’s the only state in the entire Northeast. Brad Wilcox, an Associate Professor of Sociology, and Director of the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project, partially chalks this up to economic factors.
"The issue is more about the working-class composition of the Maine population," he says. Bill Cote, a divorce lawyer in Lewiston, agrees. "We are a poor state in many respects," he says. "Financial pressures really wreak havoc on the sustainability of a marriage unit."
Florida is tied with Maine for the number of divorces per 1,000 people. In fact, The Daily Beast ran a feature in October 2010 called “America's 50 Divorce Capitals,” in which the state was represented by no less than 12 of the list’s 50 entries.
The cities included Orlando, Miami, and Tampa, among others. The highest-ranking city was Panama City, which saw 994 divorce filings in 2008 and more than 1,000 the following year. In 2010, it was the site of the high-profile divorce filing of Elin Woods against her husband, Tiger Woods.
Alaska is the 49th state in the Union, the fifth least-populated, and the eighth-highest for divorce rates. Its motto is “North to the Future,” but a future is precisely what many marriages in the state are unlikely to have. It experiences 4.4 divorces for every 1,000 people.
Among the most commonly cited grounds for divorce in Alaska are adultery, habitual drunkenness, and incurable mental illness. The most common divorce grounds in the state, however, is failure to consummate the marriage, which is another way of saying that the husband and wife simply don’t like each other any more.
Oklahoma is the 20th largest state in the country. It also has the seventh-highest divorce rate in America, which inspired the creation of state-sponsored OK Marriage Initiative. Its purpose was to study why the Sooner State was experiencing so little wedded bliss.
The study found that one of the primary causes of divorce was financial stress. Infidelity was also a major factor, and noted that young couples who married during the early throes of whirlwind romance were not expected to last long.
Kentucky is the home of bluegrass music, bourbon distilleries, and horse racing. It's also home of a divorce rate of 4.6 divorces per 1,000 people, equal to that of Oklahoma.
Grounds for divorce in Kentucky include "irretrievable breakdown of marriage." This means that it’s a no-fault state, where either spouse can file for dissolution of the marriage. Either one can deny the claim, provided that he or she don’t mind a court investigation.
West Virginia was one of the few states to actually see an expansion in its economy from 2008 to 2009. However, this bit of good news belies the fact that it’s plagued by the same high divorce rate experienced by states where the recession hit hardest.
With five divorces per 1,000 people, West Virginia has the fifth-highest rate in the country. It allows no-fault divorces, but when one party wishes to declare fault, he or she have to show that a spouse caused bodily harm or mental cruelty, was a habitual drunk or drug addict, or falsely accused the spouse of either adultery or homosexuality.
The state of Idaho is often referred to as “The Gem State” because almost every known variety of gemstone has been found there. The state is best known for its potatoes, which decorate the plates of cheeseburger enthusiasts everywhere. In addition to potatoes, Idaho produces divorces in abundance, at a rate of five per 1,000 people, the same as that of West Virginia.
The court requires that anyone seeking alimony demonstrate insufficient property assets to qualify for payments. The duration of those payments is based on the length of time needed to finish school or career training, or otherwise create self-sufficiency.
Wyoming is the least populous state in America, with just over half a million people living there. It also generates the third-highest divorce rate in the country. In fact, Men’s Health magazine placed the state capital, Cheyenne, atop its list of U.S. cities in which the average marriage will face long odds.
Wyoming’s high place on the list may be due to the relative ease with which one can obtain a divorce. In South Carolina, couples are required to separate for one full year before being granted a divorce. Wyoming has no such requirement—it’s only necessary to reside in the state for 60 days. An uncontested divorce can be finalized just three weeks after it’s filed.
Although former president and Arkansas resident Bill Clinton had well-publicized marital problems, Hillary Clinton and he remain married to this day. Unfortunately, this is a claim that 5.6 of every 1,000 Arkansas residents can't make. The state he once governed has the second-highest divorce rate in the country.
Economic difficulties and financial stress are major factors in the dissolution of the state’s marriages. Marriage counselor Dr. Gary Oliver laid the blame at the feet of young married couples. “You have a lot of kids getting married earlier. They get married younger. Where you have younger marriages, you also have a higher divorce rate," he said.
No state is more identified with quickie marriages than Nevada. After all, where else can you and your beloved join in matrimonial bliss at a drive-thru window with an Elvis impersonator officiating? Just as the state is home to quickie marriages, however, it’s also home to quickie divorces—so much so that Reno was once known as “The Divorce Capital of the World.”
With its atmosphere of gambling, partying, and the occasional legal brothel, the married individual predisposed to vice stands little chance, and marriage often suffers as a result. Las Vegas divorce attorney Frank Lin cited the bottomless environment of temptation as a major factor in his city’s divorce cases. “It’s constantly in front of you,” he said.