What Are The Divorce Rates for Gay and Lesbian Couples?

By:
Michael Tierney
Updated
June 11, 2022

Divorce is an unpleasant situation that affects a disproportionate number of Americans. Marriage is viewed as a sacred institution, but that does not make it perfect. Sometimes, you cannot resolve your spouse's issues, and divorce is the only remaining option.

While this is an unfortunate reality, you should not be ashamed if you are in the middle of divorce proceedings. The sad fact is that many marriages end in divorce in this country, so you are not alone. We are not saying that divorce is anything less than unpleasant. Instead, we only wish to clarify that more people are getting divorced than you realize.

Solution The demographics of divorce rates might surprise you. While most American marriages end in divorce, the people, sexuality, and location of the divorced couples can vary drastically. No matter who you marry, you will have disagreements or differences. Even gay and lesbian marriages, who only recently won the right to wed in The Supreme Court, may end up divorcing.

One type of marriage that faces similar divorce issues is unions between same-sex couples. Despite the difference in who is getting married, same-sex couples share the same risk of divorce as heterosexual couples do. However, this does beg the question of the divorce rates for homosexual couples. This article will provide that information and put the divorce rate into perspective.

What Are the Divorce Rates?

The divorce rates in the country are relatively high, though they have decreased in recent years. In general, the divorce rate is projected to be near 50% of the total marriages in the United States. However, that statistic only covers a broad range of divorce rates in the country and has little to do with the type of marriage. You can break down these demographics further into three sub-categories:

  • 1st Marriages: As of 2019, it is estimated that 41% of all first marriages end in divorce.
  • 2nd Marriages: As of 2019, it is estimated that 60% of all second marriages end in divorce.
  • 3rd Marriages: As of 2019, it is estimated that 73% of all third marriages end in divorce.
Solution This data suggests that, after an initial marriage, it becomes harder to maintain any subsequent marriages.

The statistics are a little more interesting when it comes to same-sex couples. However, these indicate general divorce statistics and do not specify who is divorcing whom. When it comes to the divorce rate, most studies show that heterosexual couples are twice as likely to divorce as homosexual couples. However, this ratio is not equally applicable to all same-sex couples.

While it is true that same-sex couples are only half as likely to split as a heterosexual couple, the rates may also be influenced by the gender of the spouse. For example, a study of divorce rates in the United Kingdom found that lesbian marriages are twice as likely to divorce than marriages between two men. There are other studies for Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and virtually every other country. In the United States, one study found that same-sex couples have a divorce rate of 2%, which was the same for opposite-sex partners.

What Are Divorce Rates

This disparity might come off as odd. However, it is supported that women are statistically more likely to begin the divorce proceedings than men are. Around 66% of divorces are initiated by wives rather than husbands, with the odds only going up in lesbian relationships. So, it seems fair to reason that no marriage is immune to ending in divorce.

There is not much more to discuss regarding the odds of a same-sex marriage ending in divorce. The only key takeaway is that homosexual men have a higher chance of maintaining a lifelong marriage than heterosexual marriage. However, despite the differing divorce rates between heterosexual and homosexual couples, they are still subject to the same factors that cause divorce - this means the remaining question relates to the leading causes of divorce.

Causes of Divorce

You can sometimes avoid divorce if compromises are made in the relationship. With enough effort, you can often save a marriage. However, several factors contribute to the rate of divorce for homosexual couples. The biggest issue is commitment, which can be challenging for certain people. A lack of commitment accounts for 73% of divorces in the United States. Couples who struggle with commitment are far more likely to divorce since the connection between the marriage starts to fade - this can affect the divorce rates for both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

Though a lack of commitment is a serious issue, it can lead to other severe infractions between couples. For example, commitment issues can lead to excessive arguments and fights between spouses. Whether your wife or husband is committed to you can directly affect how likely they are to pick a fight with you over ideals and how the marriage should be. Frequent arguments also affect divorce rates, with arguments accounting for 56% of divorces in the United States.

Commitment issues can build up and decay your marriage, leading to one of the foremost causes of divorce in the world. Commitment issues, if left unaddressed, often culminate in infidelity. Cheating on your spouse is the ultimate insult to marriage and actively demonstrates a lack of concern for the sanctity of your relationship. Infidelity serves as the cause of 55% of U.S. divorces, and for a good reason. Infidelity is a severe violation of trust to warrant legal reprisal, as infidelity tends to skew the divorce case in favor of the victim.

Causes of Divorce

The causes of divorce are no less likely to be an issue for homosexual couples than for heterosexual couples. Other extreme cases of divorce apply to all marriages, including:

  • Age of Marriage: Some marriages occur too soon in life with couples who believe they are ready to spend their lives together. Sometimes, this early marriage strains the relationship that leads to divorce - this accounts for 46% of divorces in the U.S.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: When people get married, there are certain expectations of what married life is meant to embody. Sometimes, we assume that married life will be radically different from reality. This misconception accounts for 45% of divorces.
  • Domestic Abuse: Perhaps the most horrific cause of divorce in the country is domestic abuse. When one spouse abuses the other, it leads to severe physical, mental, and emotional injury. Unfortunately, domestic abuse is behind 25% of American divorces.

In some cases, personal philosophy directly impacts the odds of divorce. For example, disparate political affiliations with conflicting ideals can be a severe point of contention for couples. Same-sex or otherwise, having a different political ideology can cause deep disagreements in the marriage, possibly leading to divorce. The same can be said of religious affiliation as well.

The causes of divorce are extremely unfortunate and far from exclusive to heterosexual marriage. However, given that divorce is far less common in homosexual marriages, it seems plausible that they might be a little better at resolving some of the issues surrounding divorce than heterosexual couples are. However, there is still some information left about divorce that can impact the divorce rate of homosexual couples.

States With the Highest Divorce Rates

There are plenty of details that correlate with divorce. Some are simple observations, whereas others play a direct role in the divorce becoming a reality. In some cases, the issue can boil down to where in the country you live. While divorce is hardly an exclusively American issue, geographic location within the United States' borders seems to impact the likelihood of divorce.

Causes of Divorce by State

As of 2022, the ten states with the highest divorce rates are as follows:

  • Maine: Sporting the highest divorce rate in the country, 14% of marriages in Maine end in divorce.
  • Nevada: Nevada, like Maine, sports a 14% divorce rate within its borders. Leaving it tied for the worst state for marriage.
  • Arkansas: Holding a divorce rate of 13%, Arkansas holds the top-3-spot as one of the states with the highest divorce rates.
  • Florida: Like Arkansas, Florida has a divorce rate of 13%.
  • Kentucky: Kentucky also bears a 13% divorce rate.
  • New Mexico: New Mexico has a 13% divorce rate.
  • Oklahoma: Oklahoma has a 13% divorce rate.
  • Oregon: Oregon has a 13% divorce rate.
  • Vermont: Vermont has a 13% divorce rate.
  • West Virginia: West Virginia has a 13% divorce rate.

The location of these states likely has no impact on the odds of divorce for same-sex couples. However, the issues in these states might factor into any disagreements that plague the couple. For example, the cost of living or the population size might translate into potential arguments for the couple. If expenses pile up and stress your spouse out, it could become a significant argument. If the arguments become constant, divorce could well become a viable outcome.

While location's impact on divorce is minimal, to say the least, it is still worth being aware of the statistics. Being aware of these statistics should give you the information to select a state to live in carefully. However, as the economy and environments change, the divorce rates in these states could increase or decrease accordingly. Keeping abreast of these changes is equally important to protect your relationship.

One last surprising factor of divorce could impact a same-sex couple. This one is, unfortunately, not one that you can regulate.

The Time of Year

As shocking as it may be, the time of year does lend itself to divorce statistics. While you cannot avoid time progression as you would a state with high divorce rates, it can help you note when divorce is more likely. In the United States, there is a designated "divorce month." Even more unfortunate is that divorce month kicks off the year.

Solution January is the most common month in which divorces are filed and processed, meaning you could quickly start your year off separating from and divorcing your spouse. Sadly, the reason for January being the divorce month is no secret to anyone.

Immediately before January is the month of festivities, December, when most couples have friends and family with whom they are looking forward to a festive holiday celebration like Christmas and Chanukah. These couples often have children for whom the festivities are equally important. Rather than upset their families and friends with the news of impending divorce, most couples wait to begin the proceedings until after the holiday to spare feelings.

Time of Year

While this sentiment comes from a good place, it often backfires as the bad news hits as hard. However, the result remains the same, with January being the prime month for divorce proceedings. In other cases, the cause for the delay has to do with the lawyers being unavailable for the holiday season - this tends to make January 12th through January 16th the main dates that divorce papers are filed, and the process is underway.

Learn the Law

Divorce is unpleasant for all married couples as no one wants to lose the person with whom they have agreed to spend their lives together. The situation is no different for same-sex couples who have married. While homosexual marriages have a lower chance of divorce than heterosexual couples, it can still threaten a same-sex union.

Learn The Law

There are more similarities between the causes of divorce for a same-sex couple than there are for a heterosexual couple. They indeed are not that different, as the love between a couple can fade no matter their gender, location, or timing.

There are several published studies on this. For example, in this study from 2015, lesbian couples divorced at a higher rate than heterosexual couples. Conversely, heterosexual couples divorced at a higher rate than same-sex marriages between men.

Solution It's impossible to draw conclusions from this data, just as it is with location data, the time of the year, or any of the hundreds of other factors. Marriage is complex, and these numbers are in a constant state of flux.

In any case, knowing the odds of divorce between homosexual couples is only one facet of the details of divorce law. Fortunately, finding that knowledge is simpler than ever, so you can find the help you need. There is always more information that we at Learn Divorce Law are hoping to provide. We know divorce is a scary prospect, and we extend our condolences to any struggling with divorce. However, we hope you know that help is out there, and we hope that the information listed here has proven to be informative to your needs.

Do you have any questions for us about average divorce rates? Do you have anything to add or to share? What is your current circumstance? Please let us know in the comments section so we can chime in and help! The more we share in the comments, the more we can help each other.

Written By:
Michael Tierney
Michael is a legal writer and graduate of WSU. Prior to becoming a legal writer, he had 6 years of experience as a legal assistant and office manager for a family law attorney. He's written about numerous legal subjects from helping spouses who are stuck in toxic situations to the intricacies of custody battles. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and building custom keyboards.

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