Good Question: Who Initiates Divorce, Men Or Women?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In Minnesota, a happy couple gets married every 17 minutes. And every 35 minutes, an unhappy couple gets divorced. When it comes time to dissolve a marriage, who’s pulling the plug: men or women?

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, in 2009 there were 27,895 marriages and 17,113 divorces.

And who initiates most divorces?

“Women are twice as likely to initiate a divorce as men,” said Dr. Bill Doherty, a national expert on marriages, professor at the University of Minnesota and a contributor to the Huffington Post’s new divorce section.

He said the studies have consistently shown that women ask for two out of every three divorces.

“Why questions are hard, we just don’t know,” said Doherty. “One possibility, we know simply being married is beneficial for men. For women, it’s not just being married, it’s about the quality of the relationship. So women may suffer more and be more likely to want to end it.”

On Jason’s DeBlog on, Kathy wrote that she wanted the divorce: “I clearly remember telling him (repeatedly) that one of these days I would say, ‘This is your last chance.'”

“Women in general monitor the state of their relationships more,” said Doherty, “they’re calibrating, how is it? Men tend not to do that.”

Andy wrote on the blog that his divorce has been nothing short of frustrating, and, “I’m not just saying that because I wasn’t the one who chose to do this.”

“Women break up relationships even in the dating phase. Women end relationships, more than men do, all across the board,” he said.

The takeaway lesson: “People need to work on this instead of drift apart, drift apart, and the women pull the plug,” said Doherty. “The message for men is pay attention to your marriage, and your wife’s level of happiness in the marriage.”

More from Jason DeRusha
  • Erik

    Women start the divorce process more frequently because the court system automatically sides with them, they get financial incentives, and in some cases it can be a childish weapon.

    Much like the Court System when they had Jim Crow, and black codes favoring white people over black people in the legal system.

    • Mark

      You are so correct! Don’t forget, there’s a financial incentive for the State too! The State profits from the Federal Govt when child support orders are made. The larger the child support, the more money comes to the State. Since the man is usually the larger income, guess why they are usually the victims of these huge child support payments. I know now there will be an onslaught of women saying they get small or not payments, but it’ts all based on percentages and also if the man doesn’t pay, he will suffer in other ways eventurally.

  • Dee Dee

    Wow Mr. Erik. I can see how you would think that way.. I mean I have heard of men living in their cars because the courts forced them to give everything to their exes for child support and even alimony. However I wasn’t one of those lucky ex wives. I have been on my own for 14 years and during that time I only recieved about 150 a month child support for two children… its now up to 200. I didn’t want a divorce- I all but begged for counseling but my pleas landed on deaf ears. My kids are now 19 and 17 and trust me when I say that I didn’t get any help from my ex let alone any incentives. My incentive was making the choice to live with someone who obviously didn’t love or want me nor our children OR live alone with some healing and peace. My credit is bad thanks to my decision but at least I’m happier, I pray that healing will come to you. Be blessed

  • jo

    I didn’t ask for my divorce, but I should have 10 years earlier. I was verbally, emotionally and physically abused by my ex. He changed when he turned 40. Became controlling, super critical, just an angry person. He may have gotten the house, but our college age sons chose to live with me. Our friends and both sides of the family support me and my sons. When I told everyone that we were getting divorced I heard a sigh and “It’s about time”. Best thing to happen to me, much more peaceful even if credit is bad, and on food stamps. May not have much money, but I am finding myself again.

  • rj

    I thought I was married for life and working hard to give us the extras. While I was working hard and going to school, my husband was hanging out at the local bar and pursuing ‘other interests’. I thought it was out of character for him to be so disappointed when I decided to drop out of school for a while. I initiated the divorce and had so much free time from not having to work so hard and help with his business that I almost went crazy. He cried a lot and said I did everything and nothing wrong to break it up. We agreed from the second weekend we knew each other when trust was gone, there wasn’t a lot left. He knew it was the end the minute I caught him with her.

  • rj

    The message for men is pay attention to your marriage, and your wife’s level of happiness in the marriage.” Well, what about the happiness of the husband? We are constantly struggling with the wife emotional up’s and down’s. Me personally, I was married for six years before I learned the truth about my wife Bipolar Disorder which she and her family failed to mention. The truth came out that she only wanted me for insurance and financial benefits. Did the court give it to her? YES! Someone mention, the court favor women. I was turned down for taking custody of my kids even when my wife was hospitalized for her bipolar. Yes, the court do favor women and is maybe why men are less likely to initiate the divorce process.

  • Dee Dee

    I am really enjoying this conversation we are having. Erik, thank you for opening it up. Sounds like things really needed to be talked about. Miss Jo, perhaps we should get together and start an online support group. And RJ#2. You are absolutely correct. The man’s level of happiness is just as important as the wifes’s but people tend to forget that. Once a couple is married, they are one now and must learn to put each others concerns over their own. but not at the expense of overall happiness. Its called agape love. I’m sorry you had a tough time..looks like you were one of the good guys who got played and very well. Sounds like you need to start something up too. I was personally talking about the not so nice ex’s. Not the decent ones. I had to fight tooth and nail to NOT have my kids have unsupervised visits with their dad even after it was proven that he had some inappropriate interactions with children including his sister as a juvenile. All the courts were looking at was that we were married at the time when our kids were born and that should have been enough. Now that I think about it, perhaps we all should get together and start something. And Rj #1, my ex liked those bars and extracurricular activities as well. Don’t feel bad, I think we are all on our way to healing.. Take care everyone and be blessed.

    • Enigma

      In other words Dee Dee, you’ve been treated as an equal to most divorced men.

  • Frustrated Husband

    Life with my ex was a living hell. I finally filed after 14 years. I should have done it at least 5 years earlier. In the end, she finally admitted that she had issues from being sexually molested as a child. She had other issues with her parents divorce as well that she would not seek help for. I would attempt to work with her on things for family budgets, parenting issues. All of the things a couple are supposed to be communicating over. No such luck. After my deployment, she told several family members she was finally in complete control and nothing would allow her to give up any of that control again.

    Some women are just not meant to be married. I pity the married man she decided to have an extra-marital affair with.

  • Mark

    It seems to me there are a lot of selfish people in the world, who enter into marriage for all the wrong reasons, expecting to somehow turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. It doesn’t work. It’s like trying to tell your teenager something. They know better than you, so they blunder on and only find out later how much they don’t know about life. It seems to me, taking time to really know someone well before marriage is oftentimes not done, with the expected results. I know. I’ve been there, done that. In my case, I finally decided to take some time and I now KNOW I’m with the right woman. Like you know if a shoe fits well or not. You just know. Thanks to God for that blessing. I wish you all good luck to do the same. Let the drama out and move on…. but don’t hurry.

  • Just sayin

    I hate to say it but Women like “bad boys”. Nice guys just don’t turn them on and they go for the tall, good looking idiot who treats them like mud then they wonder why it went wrong. I have lots of female friends and as they got older they all agree. Ladies, pick a nice, dependable guy instead of the good looking idiot. In the long run he will treat you better and be a better husband.

  • kevin braend

    Of cource woman initiate the divorce the most. They have the most to gain. The woman will have a relationship with the children. After all fathers are just visiters. An extra income for the life of the children. Under the new child support laws it takes 4 trips to court to get the math correct.
    In Minnesota, a father on disabilty gets to have what is called ” “Imputed Income”
    This is so the Courts can say that you need to pay from the income. Not the actual income you recieve. Disabilty income is 1260.00, Imputed income for child support is 3335.00. So your support is taken from the income the Court thinks you should have.
    During this process, the other party is not required to fill out her half of the form. For the custodial parent the Court simply ask her in court and use the lies that are set forth.
    The bias and perdujice is to the point in Minnesota, You can lose the priviledge of visiting your children for an extend time, simply based upon an accusation, With no merit at all.
    A good case of this recently happened in Aikin county. A woman made severe accusation against her ex for abusing the children. She had specific dates and times it occured. 6 months later the matter got to court and the father showed the court recepts that he was in North Dakota at the time of the alleged incedent. However the court rule that there must be a reason for the accusation and put the father on supervised visittion for a year. His total timewith Her children was 35 hours in 2010. I took 16,000.00 dollars and 6 court hearing to get visitation time back. The woman who lied got nothing and our tax dollars paid her free attorny the assisted with this case, Along with her 3 advocates ” From the shelter” that assisted her with court issues.
    In this was there any “best interest of thechildren shown” no the children had to have phyc evals, told there daddy was a bad person and during the year of absent parenting and supervised, the custodial engeged in a patteren of parentail alienation against the children. Langauge like ” See daddy’s a badman the Judge says he is bad and need to have a social worker watch when he see’s you”.
    This is normal case when the custodial parent becomes upset and gets to use the system.
    We can only hope and pray that someday the system will look at best interest of the children. Not just the best interest of the custodial parent.

  • Brad

    First, Dee Dee, I’m sorry your husband didn’t want to help with the kids and you got such a raw deal. Unfortunately for the recipient, child support is limited by the person’s income, and if he is a slob there is usually no additional safety net.

    Aside from that… it was really intellectually dishonest to not mention in this report that women know they have the edge in family court. Men have to fight for every inch both in property and custody. They often have to call expert witnesses or submit evidence that a child’s time with the father is equally (and according to some studies, more) important. If a woman lies, even without proof, he’s finished and that fallout is felt even outside the courtroom. If she is emotionally abusive (“Jon Gosselin Syndrome”), she gets a free pass. If she turns the kids against the father (parental alienation, almost always the woman, look it up), it is not illegal and she loses nothing because the kids now hate their dad. If it is proven she knew she was lying, the worst that can be thrown at her is contempt of court.

    Justices and attorneys know the system is broken, and are trying to change it, but they have a long way to go.

    Women do need to be protected from abusive spouses. It needs to be taken seriously. But so do men, and they have a right to equal protection under the law.

  • Ken

    I think men try harder at trying to make the marriage work.

    The courts most definitely reward women for ending the relationship. I am in a situation similar to Kevin, in which the court has imputed an income greater than I’ve ever earned, in order to set child support that exceeds my total income. There are tens of thousands of other men in the same situation across the state of Minnesota.

    Case law reveals a very ugly picture of how courts look at this issue. Minnesota statute 518A.42 Subd. 1(a) requires that “a child support order should not exceed the obligor’s ability to pay.” The courts have ruled that this statute doesn’t apply if there is a finding of “willful unemployment or underemployment.” They’ve gone so far as to find fathers “willfully underemployed” because they limit the amount of overtime they’re willing to put in, or they make they make this finding without any evidence at all. (The Minnesota Court of Appeals looks only at whether orders are consistent with findings; they are not allowed to re-examine any evidence.)

    Access is a serious, but separate matter from child support. I believe it is abusive to remove a fit, involved parent from a child’s life. When the court orders sole physical custody, the children are the victims. Sadly, the courts are eager to do this, and they are extremely sexist in the way they assign physical custody.

    • ML

      Yes Ken, you are correct. The courts do this because of the financial incentive for the State. The more money they send to the mom (who doesn’t need to work if she is willing to live on the dole), the more money comes into state of Minnesota coffures. The real victims are the kids, who grow up without a father in their lives. Even if the child does live nearby, they still only get mostly input from one person and it’s not balanced oftentimes. The results of that are predictable. All too often it’s like this because of the financial incentive for the …dare i say… spoiled mom who only thinks of herself. Yes there are times when mom is abused and has no choice to leave, but there seems to be a lot of cases where mom just doesn’t care to put the effort into making a marriage work and why should she if the state is so helpful to her? In my case, I had to expend thousands of dollars for an attorney while she got hers for free! Wonderful eh? Adding insult to injury, she was also a Russian who (obvious to me only) used me to get her legs into this country, then used the system to get what she really wanted, which was to be on her own as soon as possible. All done with the help of MY govt. I tried to get her deported, but her govt lawyer helped her avoid that too, even went to the trouble and expense of driving her all the way to Minneapolis to Immigration for the hearing. I suspect she probably told them I was abusive, since that’s the trump card for these con artists to be allowed to stay in our country. See… the first two years they are here only on a probation type of thing. If they get divorced in that time, they are subject to removal (UNLESS) they claim to be abused. What do you think they will do? It’s almost funny if it weren’t so stupid really. Why are we so stupid in this country? Does anyone think it’s like this anywhere else? I’ve travled and lived all over this world in my career and I can tell you it’s NOT! We wouldn’t be given the time of day in me ex’s country. It’s so amazing how America has changed over the last decades. Not always for the better either. Hang in there guys… keep fighting for what’s right….

  • Ken

    I’ve actually found quite a few cases that are very similar to what you’ve described. I didn’t believed this was possible until some of those things started happened to me, and then I started to look closely at the public record. Anyone who looks at what Family Court does (and not what it says it does) will reach the same conclusion: there is a clear, deliberate showing of bias and prejudice that is based solely upon sex.

    But the question asked here is who initiates more divorces. I think women do because the system rewards them for doing it. It also refuses to punish women who abuse the system by lying about their situation.

    • ML

      Yes, Ken, “follow the money”. It is the way it is because of the money the state gets out of the deal. My Russian ex was quite happy to discover how well she will live on her own, at taxpayer expense. Almost free rent, food stamps, free this, free that…. free lawyer… child support. She has more spendable money than I do and I make a good living! How can someone getting welfare be able to afford a car, credit cards, etc… you name it? Seems to me this is gross abuse of the welfare system as well as destroying families. She has it so much better with the help of all us taxpayers in Minnesota, than she ever could’ve had it back there where she’s from. It’s night and day. Thanks to all those politicians who enacted these welfare laws in the first place, then didn’t put in place good control of the systems to prevent abuse. I do my part every election to get rid of them too. It was encouraging this last election. Gave me some hope actually. We managed to oust “Obie” who smugly thought he was a shoe-in after sitting on his seat for 38 years. Good riddance. Hope they get the message.

  • K.

    It’s not all about the guys losing everything in a divorce and having to pay through the nose. After my divorce, I had the my two girls for 7 years and got very little support from my ex during that time (and he’d be late sometimes and complain the rest of the time). When my two daughters became teens, their father turned them against me so that he could get custody away from me. By playing on their emotions, he succeeded and they chose to live with their dad in another state and he really socked it to me then. I had to pay big time child support to him until they graduated from high school. I guess it was his way of getting even with me……….for what, I don’t know. After all, he was the one to leave me for another woman. But, I wasn’t going to be a “deadbeat” mom and I paid him. My girls were emotionally scarred from all of this. Today, they are married with children of their own and we have reconciled………but it was awful getting there. Oh, and he is still married to the “other woman” and my grandchildren call them grandma and grandpa ’cause they live close by and I still live two states away.

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