It seems divorce court could be renamed family court. That's because divorce statistics have hit 20-year lows, mainly because fewer people are getting married in the first place. Family court is the venue unmarried couples are using for ending their relationships and working out parenting issues such as custody and visitation.
According to two reports by the NewsTribune, divorces are on the decline for many reasons. One is the tough economy, with more couples staying married until their financial picture improves. The newest report shows that fewer people are getting married at all. Even second marriages are declining.
The report was based on the number of marriage licenses issued in the Illinois Valley area, which has fallen from one-third to more than one-half since 1980.
This means that couples are sorting out property division, child custody and visitation, child support and issues surrounding divorce in family court, not divorce court. Lawyers who practice family law can also serve as a divorce mediator; divorce mediators are getting busier with cases in which couples have children in common but never married and may not even share a common residence.
About 29 percent of children under 18 now live with a parent or parents who are unwed or no longer married, a fivefold increase from 1960.
Broken down further, about 15 percent have parents who are divorced or separated and 14 percent who were never married.
Within those two groups, 6 percent have parents who are live-in couples who opted to raise kids together without getting married.
Clearly, America's idea of what makes a family is evolving.
Source: NewsTribune, "'Til death do us' not", Tom Collins, 8 Dec 2010