The University of Hawaii Press is planning
to release a second edition of my award-winning book Divorce with Decency:
The Complete How-To Handbook and Survivor’s Guide to the Legal,
Emotional, Economic, and Social Issues next year. Thus, I am in the
process of revising and updating the book. Here’s a sneak preview of the
“new and improved” edition of my book and a brief listing of some of
society’s more dramatic current trends.
The institution of marriage has become
alarmingly fragile. The numbers
of people who choose to get married at all, as well as those who manage to
stay married, are both down. The University of Chicago recently conducted
an eye-opening survey on the Emerging
21st-Century American Family. It revealed the following amazing trends
– all of which are fully expected to continue.
1. In 1972, nearly 75% of adults were
married, by 1988 this percentage had dropped to only 56%.
2. The percentage of U.S. households
composed of married couples with children dropped from 45% in the 1970s to
26% in 1998.
3. Perhaps the most startling statistic of
all – the number of households comprised of unmarried adults and no
children more than doubled within the last 25 years to a current figure of
33%. The nation’s 54.4 million married couples, with or without
children, now make up barely one-half of American households.
Approximately one-third of the nation’s 105 million households are now
occupied by single people, roommates, live-in couples and other unrelated
Key factors in the decline of married
1. By the late 1990s, the U.S. marriage
rate was the lowest in over 30 years.
2. Young adults are now waiting until their
mid to late 20s to marry. Women today marry at an average age of 25; men,
at 27. This is the oldest age for first marriages in U.S. history and
represents a big change from just a few decades ago.
3. Up until the mid-70s, cohabitation
preceded only 10% of all marriages. By the 1990s, that figure had risen
from 50 to 55%.
4. Nowadays in America, more than 45% of
first marriages, about 65% of 2nd marriages, and fully 85% of 3rd
marriages, will end in divorce.
Statistical analysis on divorce and
1. The “7-Year Itch” phenomenon is
backed up by 2000 Census Figures. Marriages
that end in divorce do indeed typically last an average of seven
2. About 75% of those who divorce will
remarry - most within the 1 to 3 years following divorce.
What is the impact of all this on the
1. Because of high divorce rates,
cohabitation and single parenthood, a majority of families rearing
children during this 21st century will probably not include the
children’s original two-parents. In
1998, only 51% of America’s kids lived in a two-parent household
compared with 73% in 1972.
2. One-third of all live births in Hawaii
occur out of wedlock.
3. The number of children living with single
parents increased from less than 5% in 1972 to almost 20% in 1998.
Meanwhile the percentage of children living in a blended household more
4. Experts estimate that grandparents,
instead of their natural parents, are now serving as the primary
caretakers for approximately 8% of Ame-rica’s children.
5. The rate of divorce is 50% higher in
remarriages containing stepchildren than in those without.
America’s families certainly aren’t what
they used to be. Although I am no prophet or politician, it’s evident
that the impacts of these trends will be enormous and far-reaching, yet
difficult to predict or prepare for. It’s a challenging time to be a
family law attorney.
Bradley A. Coates, J.D., has been a practicing divorce attorney in
Honolulu for over 20 years. He
has been selected as Honolulu's Best Divorce Lawyer and is the founder of
Coates & Frey, Hawaii's largest family law firm.