It’s often said that half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce, but this is simply not true. In fact, the divorce rate nationwide has been declining for many years. And, since Americans are generally living longer lives, this means that marriages are generally lasting longer.
A recent report ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia by the duration of their marriages. Vermont ranked eighth, with a median duration of 22.4 years. Interestingly, compared to the rest of the nation, Vermont also had one of the older median ages for a first marriage: 30.6 years old. Compare that with Utah, where the median age for a first marriage is 25.8 years old.
But, if you’re thinking that the long duration of Vermont marriages is attributable to the fact that Vermonters are getting married when they are more mature and ready for marriage, you may be disappointed. It turns out that Washington, D.C, has both the oldest median age for a first marriage (31.95 years) and the shortest median duration for marriages (10.5 years.)
Challenges of divorce statistics
Measuring the national divorce rate is challenging. Many people assume that they can simply calculate the marriage rate and then divide it by the divorce rate, but this doesn’t hold up to analysis.
For instance, you might look at one year’s figures and find that there were 6.9 marriages per 1,000 people and 3.2 divorces per 1,000 people, and then divide the marriage rate by the divorce rate to conclude that 46.3% of marriages that year ended in divorce.
The problem with that approach: The couples who got married that year were not necessarily the same couples who got divorced that year. Many of the couples who got divorced had been married for many years, and some of them had been married and divorced before.
On top of those issues, national statistics can be unreliable because states have different ways of keeping their records. In the marriage duration study we noted above, numbers were skewed by the fact that some of the biggest states didn’t report divorce statistics at all.
Divorce later in life
All that said, the apparent longer duration of Vermont marriages can bring about some complications when Vermont residents divorce later in life. Compared to a young couple, a couple that has been married for many years has had time to acquire more marital property. Often this can also mean more complex types of property, such as real estate and retirement accounts.
These divorces require careful legal work and financial planning.