Make Divorce Harder, Save Billions of Dollars

Divorce reform advocates are arguing that making divorce less easy can save the government billions of dollars in an era of mounting debt and deficits.

Chris Gersten, founder and chairman of the nonpartisan Coalition for Divorce Reform, told the Washington Times that "the savings to taxpayers will be pretty dramatic" if states pass the coalition's legislative plan which aims to slash divorce rates by a third over five years.

The Times reported that a single-parent family that results from a divorce can put Uncle Sam on the hook for $20,000 to $30,000 a year, which comes to an overall societal expense of between $33 billion and $112 billion a year.

Americans have long favored making divorce more legally difficult, according to the Times, which reported that for more than 30 years, more Americans responding to the General Social Survey indicated they wanted divorce to be harder than those who favored easing the process.

But the Times reported that state divorce reform legislation is a rarity, and very few couples opt in to more restrictive marriages created by such laws. Indeed, New York went in the opposite direction in 2010 by allowing no-fault divorce. 

The Times pointed to some of the consequences of divorce as reasons why divorce reformers can't abandon their efforts:

-- A 2010 Pew Charitable Trust study says children of divorced parents often are hindered economically and unable to reach higher-income levels.

-– W. Bradford Wilcox wrote in a 2009 paper, citing research by professors Paul Amato and Alan Booth of Pennsylvania State University, that if America "enjoyed the same level of family stability today as it did in 1960," there would be 70,000 fewer suicides, 600,000 fewer children undergoing therapy, 500,000 fewer acts of teenage delinquency, 750,000 fewer children repeating grades, and 1.2 million fewer school suspensions each year.

-– A new study by Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin says children of divorced parents live an average of five years less than children whose parents stayed together. 


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