Getting married is an exciting event and it can bring some big life changes. You may be moving in together for the first time, buying your first home together, or starting to plan your family, all of which require a solid financial strategy.
Part of that strategy, however, may also need to include a contingency plan in case your wedded bliss doesn't last. In 2016, there were 6.9 marriages in the U.S. for every 1,000 people and 3.2 divorces per every 1,000 people. In other words, just under half of all marriages won't live up to the part of the wedding vows that say "til death do us part."
So what is the average length of marriage in the U.S.? The answer might surprise if you're soon to be married or a newlywed.
Average Length of Marriage In the U.S.
On average, the typical U.S. marriage that ends in divorce lasts just eight years. Worldwide, the average length of marriage can vary widely by country. In Italy, for example, the typical couple stays married for 18 years. In Qatar, on the other hand, the divorce rate is 69.5%, with marriages lasting less than 5 years on average.
There's just as much variation when you consider divorce rates by U.S. state. Fourteen states have a divorce rate of 50-65%. Twelve states have a divorce rate ranging from 15% to 39%, with the remaining states falling in between. Hawaii boasts the lowest divorce rate of any state, at around 20%.
So why is there such a difference? One explanation for higher divorce rates in certain states than others is that those states also have higher marriage rates. It's purely a numbers game; more couples getting married means a higher probability for divorce. Divorce rates can also be higher when at least one spouse is getting remarried.
Who's Getting Divorced in America?
From a demographic perspective, there are some noticeable patterns in divorce trends. The average age for a couple going through a first divorce is 30 years old and 60% of divorces involve spouses who are between the ages of 25 and 39. Women are more likely to file for divorce than men and the divorce rate is highest for African-American women aged 50 to 59. Asian women between 25 and 29 years old are least likely to get divorced. The divorce rate for heterosexual couples is double that of same-sex couples. Among all couples 50 and older, the divorce rate has doubled over the last two decades. Having a spouse who's incarcerated is also a strong indicator of divorce; 80% of men and nearly 100% of women in this type of scenario end up divorcing their spouse.
As the data suggests, divorce can affect virtually any type of couple. The next question is, what's leading those couples to call it quits?
Main Causes of Divorce in the U.S.
According to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, the main causes of divorce fall into three main categories:
- Basic incompatibility
- Money issues
Surprisingly, money ranked third on the list, not first. In terms of the kinds of money issues that can contribute to divorce, they include a general disagreement on financial goals and how to manage money; financial infidelity; and having too much debt. Among dating couples who have yet to get hitched, 33.78% said excessive debt was a dealbreaker in pursuing a more serious long-term commitment, according to an article on Finder.
With regard to incompatibility, that's a broad category that can cover any number of things. For instance, a couple may have different political or religious views that could contribute to the breakup of their marriage. On a more superficial level, one spouse may have an annoying hobby or habit that the other spouse just can't look past. And while some couples may be able to move on and rebuild their marriage after infidelity, not all of them can.
Financial Planning Can Be Key to a Successful Marriage
While money isn't the only cause of divorce and disagreements in a marriage, it can be a big one. Developing a financial plan, ideally before you actually get married, can help you build a solid money foundation. That includes:
- Discussing and planning a household budget
- Developing a plan for repaying debt, if either spouse is bringing debt into the marriage
- Setting joint and individual financial goals
- Talking over plans for the long-term, such as saving for retirement or buying a home
- Getting the right financial protection in place
That last one could mean anything from a prenuptial agreement if one or both spouses is bringing wealth to the marriage, or life insurance and an estate plan to preserve any wealth you might accumulate together. Talking with a certified financial planner or another financial professional can help you and your spouse create a roadmap for money management that you can both agree on.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "National Marriage and Divorce Rates."
U.S. Census Bureau. "Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces." April 22, 2021.
Italian National Institute of Statistics. "Separations and Divorces in Italy."
Qatar Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics. "Marriage & Divorce, State of Qatar." September 1, 2018.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Marriages and Divorces." February 7, 2022.
Raley RK, Sweeney MM, Wondra D. The Growing Racial and Ethnic Divide in U.S. Marriage Patterns. Future Child. 2015;25(2):89-109. doi: 10.1353/foc.2015.0014
Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts. "Survey: Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) professionals Reveal the Leading Causes of Divorce."