The Primary Causes of Divorces

by Beverly Bird
If the prevalence of no-fault divorce is any indication, sometimes marriages just don't work out.

If the prevalence of no-fault divorce is any indication, sometimes marriages just don't work out.

Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

Determining why people divorce might seem like straightforward research, a matter of simply surveying the grounds used in divorce complaints. However, the advent of no-fault divorces makes the issue less clear. In every state, a spouse can simply say the marriage isn’t working anymore and receive a divorce without proving grounds. The exact causes aren't clear and, according to “The Wall Street Journal,” not much research has gone into learning what they are.

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Adultery would appear to be a significant cause of divorce, according to at least two studies. One 2005 survey conducted by “Divorce Magazine” indicated that almost one in four marriages ended due to issues of infidelity. “The Wall Street Journal” reports that three years later, in 2008, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 81 percent of their practicing members cited social-networking websites as providing proof of marital infidelity. This statistic led to an unsubstantiated theory that such sites cause infidelity, but according to “The Wall Street Journal,” straying via social-networking is probably more the effect of infidelity than the cause of it.


A limited survey performed by the University of Pennsylvania in 1997 indicated that almost one in 10 spouses blamed physical or emotional abuse for ending her marriage. All the divorcees who cited this cause were women. The “Divorce Magazine” survey indicated that 16.8 percent of the spouses polled ended their marriages because of abuse. The website Divorce Lawyer Source mentions neglect as a form of abuse, and it may include the abuse of drugs or alcohol as well, either because it prompts abusive behavior or places a strain on a marriage.

Money Problems

It’s a rare person who doesn’t have a care in the world when it comes to money, and the stress of making ends meet can take a toll on a marriage. This is especially true when spouses don’t agree on how to juggle their finances. If your marriage is already experiencing problems, fighting about money can add fuel to the fire and be the final straw. Wendy Spencer, a divorce mediator, says financial pressures can have the opposite effect on a marriage, however. Spencer noted that when the American economy grew shaky in 2008, she saw an increase of divorces due to money problems, then the trend reversed. Spencer theorizes that the economy forced people to stay together because they couldn’t afford the high costs of divorce.

Growing Apart

Sometimes spouses just drift apart, particularly when they marry young. As they mature and as life events take their toll, they may find that they don’t have much in common anymore. cites general incompatibility as the primary factor behind no-fault divorces. More than 18 percent of divorcees who responded to the “Divorce Magazine” survey cited it, and more than one in four of those respondents were men.

Other Factors

Some factors might not cause divorce in and of themselves, but leave spouses more predisposed toward it. Divorce Lawyer Source indicates that the children of divorced parents are more likely to divorce, as well as couples who lived together before they married. Spencer cites blended-family problems as a cause for divorce in second marriages when partners bring the baggage of ex-spouses and stepchildren into a relationship.