By JULIET WANG
Capital News Service
LANSING—Divorce rates have been declining statewide for reasons that include the fact that couples are waiting longer to get married and living together rather than marrying.
Financial considerations also affect the divorce rate, experts say.
The counties with the lowest divorce rate are Oscoda with 4.7 divorces per 1,000 residents, Houghton with 4.7, Leelanau with 5.0 and Washtenaw and Arenac counties, both with 5.1 in 2008, according to the Department of Community Health (DCH).
The counties with the highest divorce rate are Crawford with 12.1, St. Joseph with 10.1, Iron with 10, Grand Traverse with 9.6 and Clare with 9.4 in 2008, according to DCH. The state average in 2008 is 6.7 and in 1998 it was 7.8.
Thomas Blume, an associate professor of counseling at Oakland University, said there several reasons why divorce rates are falling.
“It can be traced to marital habits to the 1960s and ‘70s up until the ‘90s that people are waiting longer to get married. These kinds of marriages are not as impulsive and not as risky,” said Blume.
“In the 1970s, the option of living together without marriage wasn’t there. When the couple breaks up, it. won’t show up as a divorce. I would like to think people are more accomplished, more aware. But people have unrealistic expectations,” Blume added.
Linda Glover, executive director of the Resolution Services Center of Central Michigan and a domestic relations mediator for 10 years, said finances are a factor in the lower divorce rates.
“The times are different. It costs money to divorce, and two households split up the amount of debt,” said Glover.
“We‘re seeing a lot more people divorcing in serious debt. The debt gets worse. It used to be a single household — then it splits.”
There are less expensive alternatives to divorce, but couples still might not divorce for economic reasons.
“We have couples at the point of divorce and mediation helps without litigating in court. For other couples, it prevents more debt,” Glover said. “Then because of the debt, divorce is just talked about.”
Glover’s center provides mediation services in Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Ionia, Gratiot and Shiawassee counties.
© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.