The 50% divorce myth

Everyone “knows” half of all American marriages end in divorce, and that was indeed the case in the 1970s and 1980s.  But it isn’t true today:

Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since.

About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist (who also contributes to The Upshot).

There are many reasons for the drop in divorce, including later marriages, birth control and the rise of so-called love marriages. These same forces have helped reduce the divorce rate in parts of Europe, too. Much of the trend has to do with changing gender roles — whom the feminist revolution helped and whom it left behind.

“Two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women,” said William Doherty, a marriage therapist and professor of family social science at University of Minnesota, “so when you’re talking about changes in divorce rates, in many ways you’re talking about changes in women’s expectations.”


The delay in marriage is part of the story, allowing people more time to understand what they want in a partner and to find one. The median age for marriage in 1890 was 26 for men and 22 for women. By the 1950s, it had dropped to 23 for men and 20 for women. In 2004, it climbed to 27 for men and 26 for women.

Perhaps surprisingly, more permissive attitudes may also play a role. The fact that most people live together before marrying means that more ill-fated relationships end in breakups instead of divorce. And the growing acceptance of single-parent families has reduced the number of shotgun marriages, which were never the most stable of unions, notes Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College and author of “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage.”

Crime doesn’t pay. Criminals do.

So your income went down after you were convicted of a criminal offence, and now you can’t pay child support?  Too bad:

When it comes to paying child support, courts won’t sympathize with parents who are the authors of their own financial demise through criminal activity, a family court judge recently ruled this month.

In Rogers v. Rogers, Superior Court Justice Alex Pazaratz found an Ontario father who lost his well-paying job due to criminal convictions couldn’t use his reduced income as an excuse to stop paying child support.

The father, Scott Rogers, “is intentionally under-employed. His intentional behaviour caused him to lose employment and limit his opportunities to find replacement employment,” wrote Pazaratz.

Rogers drove without a licence for 10 years and was convicted of driving while suspended 12 times, according to the ruling. He kept driving after each conviction until “it all caught up with him” in February 2011, wrote Pazaratz. The court sent him to jail for eight months, the judge noted.

Rogers’ employer refused to take him back after he got out of jail, forcing him to take up another job that pays far less than his previous income of $74,500. Rogers also accumulated convictions for uttering threats and harassing his ex-wife.

According to the judge, the father “made conscious decisions to do things — illegal things — with the full knowledge that his reckless and anti-social behaviour would make him unavailable (let alone, unacceptable) for employment. The net result is the same as if he’d handed in his resignation.”

The father of two had gone to court with an application to stop paying child support once his income plummeted to an expected $33,000 in 2013. But Pazaratz said his children and ex-wife shouldn’t have to pay for his bad decisions.


The Ontario Court of Justice decided similarly in Costello v. Costello. In that case, a father sought reduced support for his two children after losing his job following run-ins with the law.

Toronto family lawyer Bill Rogers calls the decision a “really good reminder” for both family lawyers and litigants of how the courts treat parents who lose their jobs through their own actions. “It’s basically like quitting your job,” he says.

According to Pazaratz, the definition of intentional doesn’t require establishing that the father lost his job just so he could stop paying child support. “There is no requirement of bad faith or need to find a specific intent to evade child support. Rather, as the objectives of the child support guidelines state, parents have a joint and ongoing obligation to support their children. Imputing income is one method which courts can use to give effect to this obligation.”

He added: “The expectations placed on the applicant were not terribly onerous: Obey the law. Support your children. It would be counter to public policy to allow the applicant to deliberately breach the first obligation and then use his own misconduct to avoid the second.”

Where is Andy’s Dad?

Heavy, dude:

Between all the fun characters, the magical nature of the toys, and burning questions like “What is the sex like between Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head?” it’s easy to forget that there are human characters in this movie. Namely, the toys’ owner, Andy; his little sister, Molly; their mom; and … wait a minute, where’s the dad? This theory by Jess Nevins explains his absence by claiming that, while Buzz Lightyear and Woody are having wacky adventures, Andy’s parents are getting a divorce.

Each Toy Story movie covers a milestone in the life of Andy: his 10th birthday, the first time he goes to summer camp, and the day he leaves for college. And for all of these important events, Andy’s father is always absent, with no explanation. Also, look at Andy’s house: There are photos of Andy, his mom, and his sister, but no dad in sight.

Then there’s the fact that in the first movie, we see the hand of Andy’s mom as she’s bringing over his present. Guess what: There’s no wedding ring.

If Andy’s dad just happened to be on a business trip or was, like, standing in the other room the whole time, you’d still probably see some evidence of his existence. Obviously there could be many, many explanations for this, but it seems likely that either Andy’s parents broke up in a bitter divorce or his dad up and left the family at some point after Molly was conceived (which wasn’t that long before the first movie, since she’s a baby). If the father left recently, this would also explain why the family is moving to a smaller house in the first movie: It’s all they can afford on one salary.

It’s amazing (and kind of depressing) how many animated movies have no fathers in them.  (And even in those that do, it rarely ends well for him.)

The rise of “gray divorce”

Sociologist Susan L. Brown, in the L.A. Times, examines the reasons for the increasing number of older Americans (and Canadians, if my practice is representative) choosing to end their marriages:

Until recently, it would have been fair to say that older people simply did not get divorced. Fewer than 10% of those who got divorced in 1990 were ages 50 or older. Today, 1 in 4 people getting divorced is in this age group.

It turns out that those high-profile breakups of Tipper and Al Gore, and Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger, were part of a trend. Baby boomers, who drove the huge increase in divorce that began during the 1970s and persisted through the early 1980s, are at it again. Just as they have transformed other arenas of U.S. social life, boomers are now reshaping the contours of divorce.

The rise in “gray divorce” is a product of dramatic changes in the meaning of marriage in America over the last half-century. Today, we live in an era of individualized marriage, in which those who wed have high expectations for marital success. Americans expect marriage to provide them not simply with stability and security but also with self-fulfillment and personal satisfaction. Roles are flexible; the traditional breadwinner-homemaker model is no longer the status quo. Good spouses engage in open communication and are best friends. This is a high bar for many to achieve, let alone maintain over decades while juggling work and child-rearing.

If a marriage is not achieving these goals, then divorce is an acceptable solution, according to most Americans. As Ann Landers famously advised those considering divorce, simply answer the question, “Are you better off with or without your spouse?”


The more complex marital biographies of many boomers thus have enduring consequences, potentially placing them at heightened risk of a later-life divorce. Another factor in the growing rate of late-life divorces includes an increased tendency of couples to reassess their unions at life turning points, such as an empty nest or retirement. Lengthening life expectancies can play a role too. Men and women who are 65 can expect to live 20 more years, a long time to spend with someone you may not like so much anymore.

The consequences of this gray divorce revolution are largely unknown. Because relatively few older adults divorced in the past, there is little research on the implications of later-life divorce for the well-being of individuals, their families and society at large.

Divorce gets ugly

No comment:

When Feng’s wife gave birth to a girl, he was convinced it could not be his as he believed their daughter would be as beautiful as her mother, so he concluded his wife must have been unfaithful. He insisted she tell him who the father was.

When a DNA test proved that the baby was his, the wife confessed she was originally rather ugly, but had spent $100,000 (P4 million) on cosmetic plastic surgery in South Korea before they were married. Feng filed for divorce citing “false pretenses.”

Unverified photos circulating in China do show a marked improvement in looks after the women went under the knife. Interestingly, no one has been able to track down a photograph of Feng himself. A pity as we could judge for ourselves if he really is the Mr. Oh So Good-Looking he thinks he is.

After the divorce, he then sued his ex-wife. He argued that she had conned him into thinking she was a beautiful woman.  It’s clearly a man’s world in China. Amazingly, the judge agreed with Feng’s argument and ordered his ex-wife to hand over $120,000 (P4.9 million) in compensation.

“I married my wife out of love, but as soon as we had our first daughter, we began having marital issues,” said Feng. “Our daughter was incredibly ugly, to the point where it horrified me.”

“17 Common Mistakes To Avoid In Divorce Proceedings”

From family lawyer Sherry Donovan in the Huffington Post.  I agree with all of them, and I’d add an 18th: concentrate on what’s best for the children and yourself, not what might punish your ex.

I’ve warned many clients that they’re likely to come out much worse at trial than if they accepted a reasonable settlement offer, but some are so embittered that they want their day in court anyway.  If they’re particularly obstinate, I will tell them to seek other counsel.

Who gets the RRSPs?

The Globe and Mail on division of Registered Retirement Savings Plans following the breakdown of a marriage:

While family law across Canada calls for a 50-50 split of matrimonial property, couples don’t necessarily need to split each asset right down the middle. And many don’t, says Ms. Linden, choosing instead to allocate certain types of assets to each spouse in a way that gives both parties roughly the same dollar value in the end.

The tax implications inherent in an RRSP should make parting couples pause for thought, says Tracy Theemes, a certified financial planner and co-owner of Sophia Financial Group in Vancouver.

“There’s a lack of understanding of what an RRSP really is,” says Ms. Theemes, a financial divorce specialist.

“It’s a tax holding structure. With an RRSP, you have a relationship with the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency), and that’s a distinct difference from other types of assets.”Dividing or transferring an RRSP during a divorce does not trigger a tax bill or credit for anyone, but cashing it out will, says Ms. Theemes. That’s why it’s important for divorcing couples to make sure they’ll have enough cash to take them through the transition period after separation, and beyond.

Ms. Theemes says she usually advises couples to just divide all assets down the middle – RRSPs, other investments, and cash from the sale of the family home.

“Especially in high-conflict splits, that’s the best thing to do,” she says.

I usually recommend to clients that the RRSPs simply be divided by way of tax-free rollover, whereby the funds are equalized between the parties without any monies being withdrawn.

If the parties insist on anything other than an equal division – say, if one party decides to waive her entitlement to the RRSPs in order to keep the matrimonial home – standard practice in Nova Scotia is to deduct the applicable withholding tax rate (between 10% and 30%, depending on the balance)   In other words, $50,000.00 in an RRSP would be valued at $35,000.00 for division purposes.