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Liberals, leftists and atheists have consistently gotten divorced at higher rates than social conservatives, which some say strains the sanctity of marriage.

For more information, please see: Atheism and divorce

Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage.

As marriage sometimes has both legal and religious components, a divorce only ends the legal component. Depending on the parties' religious views (if any), some religions require the married partners to have a religious divorce to maintain good standing within the religion. For instance, practicing Jews must get both a legal divorce, to satisfy secular authorities, and a get (גט), or religious divorce, to satisfy religious practice, while Catholics must obtain an annulment (not the same as a legal annulment) in order to remarry. Protestants usually don't offer or provide religious divorces, but may not allow divorced persons to hold certain offices unless the divorce is for certain reasons (generally, in cases of abandonment, abuse, or adultery by the other spouse), and may not allow their facility to be used for a marriage where one or both parties divorced for other reasons.

Liberals have consistently gotten divorced at higher rates than social conservatives, which some say strains the sanctity of marriage.

Divorce, single-parent households and its negative effects on children

See also: Divorce, single-parent households and its negative effects on children

The nonprofit Annie E. Casie Foundation notes:

Sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies — and espe­cial­ly moth­er-only house­holds — are more like­ly to live in pover­ty com­pared to mar­ried-par­ent house­holds. Giv­en this, kids of sin­gle par­ents are more like­ly to expe­ri­ence the con­se­quences of grow­ing up poor. Chil­dren in pover­ty are more like­ly to have phys­i­cal, men­tal and behav­ioral health prob­lems, dis­rupt­ed brain devel­op­ment, short­er edu­ca­tion­al tra­jec­to­ries, con­tact with the child wel­fare and jus­tice sys­tems, employ­ment chal­lenges in adult­hood and more.

Many fam­i­lies are low-income but sit above the fed­er­al­ly-defined pover­ty line. Chil­dren from these fam­i­lies often face sim­i­lar chal­lenges and live in com­mu­ni­ties with lim­it­ed access to qual­i­ty health care, com­pre­hen­sive sup­port ser­vices and enrich­ing activities...

Kids from sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies are more like­ly to face emo­tion­al and behav­ioral health chal­lenges — like aggres­sion or engag­ing in high-risk behav­iors — when com­pared to peers raised by mar­ried par­ents. Research has linked these health chal­lenges with fac­tors often asso­ci­at­ed with sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies, such as parental stress, lost social net­works, wit­ness­ing con­flict, mov­ing homes and socioe­co­nom­ic hurdles.

Chil­dren of sin­gle moth­ers may face addi­tion­al chal­lenges. For instance: Depres­sion, which can neg­a­tive­ly impact par­ent­ing, is com­mon among recent­ly divorced mothers.

Such hard­ships would be dif­fi­cult for any child. But kids can recov­er and thrive — par­tic­u­lar­ly when raised with the ben­e­fits of nur­tur­ing rela­tion­ships, sta­bil­i­ty, and men­tal health support.[1]

The Heritage Foundation's article The Real Root Causes of Violent Crime: The Breakdown of Marriage, Family, and Community points out that the divorce is a causal factor for violent crime.

Causes of divorce and lowering the divorce rate

See also: Causes of divorce

Personality disorders and divorce

See also: Personality disorders and divorce and Histrionic personality disorder and divorce and Paranoid personality disorder and divorce

About 9% of the population has at least one personality disorder.[2]

A histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is a mental health condition marked by unstable emotions, a distorted self-image and an overwhelming desire to be noticed. People with HPD often behave dramatically or inappropriately to get attention.[3]

A paranoid personality disorder (PPD) is a mental health condition marked by a pattern of distrust and suspicion of others without adequate reason to be suspicious. People with PPD are always on guard, believing that others are constantly trying to demean, harm or threaten them.[4]

The abstract for the journal article Personality Disorder Symptoms Are Differentially Related to Divorce Frequency states:

"Divorce is associated with a multitude of outcomes related to health and well-being. Data from a representative community sample (N = 1,241) of St. Louis residents (ages 55–64) were used to examine associations between personality pathology and divorce in late midlife. Symptoms of the 10 DSM–IV personality disorders were assessed with the Structured Interview for DSM–IV Personality and the Multisource Assessment of Personality Pathology (both self and informant versions). Multiple regression analyses showed Paranoia and Histrionic personality disorder symptoms to be consistently and positively associated with number of divorces across all three sources of personality assessment. Conversely, Avoidant personality disorder symptoms were negatively associated with number of divorces. The present paper provides new information about the relationship between divorce and personality pathology at a developmental stage that is understudied in both domains."[5]

Alarmed at high rates of divorce within the Christian community, the Family Research Council tried to reverse that trend. They found that 85 percent of Christian couples either had no premarital counseling or only met once with their pastor. Considering this to be unacceptable, they put together programs that require a minimum of 4 months premarital preparation including the taking of a premarital inventory and meeting with mentor couples. This caused divorce rates to drop by 30% to 50% for those couples who adhered to the program.[6]

Poor communication/interpersonal skills and divorce

In 2021, Sandra Aponte, MA, RMHCI wrote the article The 4 Communication Styles That Lead To Divorce With 90% Accuracy which indicated:

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are considered metaphorical figures in the New Testament’s final book of Revelation. Written down by John of Patmos after receiving a vision from God, they detail pestilence, war, famine, and death — kicking off a divine countdown for the end of the world and the Last Judgement.

Inspired by the ominous signs of this biblical vision, Dr. John Gottman describes his divorce-predicting research by the same name. More specifically, the communication styles that predicted the end of a relationship with 90% accuracy. His incredible research was completed with the assistance of 3,000 couples — who he followed and studied for over 20 years. As such, he was able to predict which couples would stay together, and which ones would end up divorcing within 6 years of the wedding.

The four communication styles were:

  • Criticism: when you attack or criticize the character of your partner
  • Defensiveness: a response to criticism — it is when you come up with excuses and play the victim
  • Contempt: when you make your partner feel worthless through disrespect and non-verbal cues
  • Stonewalling: a response to contempt — it is when you shut down, stop responding to your partner and completely withdraw[7]

Alcoholism and divorce

See also: Divorce and alcoholism

According to the article The Link Between Alcoholism and Divorce:

Regarding the correlation between alcoholism and divorce, the real issue seems to arise when only one spouse is the heavy drinker in the marriage. Studies have shown that when one spouse has a drinking problem, the couple is much more likely to divorce.

For example, according to a study published in May 2014 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers from the University of Michigan found that nearly half of the more than 17,000 study participants with a history of alcoholism got a divorce at some point in their lives, while only 30% of the participants who were not affected by serious alcohol problems got a divorce.

The consequences of periodic or ongoing excessive drinking can lead to the deterioration of the communication channels, as well as the intimate relationship between the couple. Specific manifestations of such deterioration may include arguments, serious financial problems, acts of infidelity and acts of violence.[8]

Natural family planning, contraception, cohabitation and divorce

The summary of conclusions for the abstract for the 2021 journal article Natural Family Planning and Marital Chastity: The Effects of Periodic Abstinence on Marital Relationships published in the journal The Linacre Quarterly indicates: "Summary: This study showed that ever-use of natural family planning (NFP) among ever-married women was associated with 58 percent lower odds of divorce than among women who never-used NFP. Ever-use of contraceptive methods was associated with two times the odds of divorce and four times for cohabitation compared to those women who never-used those methods. Use of periodic abstinence with NFP is the practice of marital chastity and is thought to strengthen the marital relationship."[9]

Primary Biblical Statements

See also: Divorce and New Testament theology

The Bible indicates that divorce, except for the infidelity of a spouse, is a sin in the eyes of God, and can lead to drastic consequences for those involved. Indeed, God says "I hate divorce." (Malachi 2:16 NIV version).

For most of 2,000 years Christians have viewed divorce primarily through two scriptural citations, Matthew 5:32 and 1 Corinthians 7:15. God's views on divorce are seen as most clearly articulated in the former, which is reiterated in 19:9:

"32: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery" (Matthew 5: 32) and, "9: And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" (Matthew 19: 9)

The corresponding passages in Mark and Luke lack the reference to fornication:

Mark 10:11-12 (KJV): And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
Luke 16:18 (KJV): Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from [her] husband committeth adultery.
"1 Corinthians 7:15 states But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.

Doctrinal positions

Historically most conservative Protestant Christians have allowed divorce only in the case of adultery,[10] and some also for desertion,[11][12] The original text of the Westminster Confession, as approved by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1647, emphatically stated: "Nothing but adultery or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage." The offended party in such circumstances is free to remarry, as if the offending party were dead. In 1927, Dr. Clarence Edward Macartney recommended that the Presbyterian General Assembly declare that, "...adultery alone clearly recognized in the New Testament as cause for divorce. Therefore the Church cannot sanction divorce on any other ground nor the remarriage of divorced persons other than the innocent parties in divorces granted for adultery; and it shall be unlawful for a minister to marry any divorced person except one so divorced."[13]

There is disagreement as to how the absence of the fornication clause in the Mark and Luke affect the meaning of the fuller Matthean account, and some believe that any divorce equates to adultery, and incurs the consequences of such. (Gal. 5:19,21) Further consequences of adultery are stated in Deuteronomy 23:2, where it is stated:

"2:A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD." (Deuteronomy 23:2)

However, the verse is open to some degree of interpretation,[14] and as this is an Old Testament decree (unlike the previous reference in Matthew), the generational effects are usually not seen by Christians as applying under the New Covenant[15] where the emphasis of salvation shifts from countries and family lines to individuals, and is open to all who will believe. (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2; Rev. 5:9)

In the extensive examination of the issue by Wesleyan holiness preacher L. S. Boardman, fornication is shown as not restricted to premarital sex, and he contends that "the words from Mark must be blended with Matthew's account to make the dialogue complete."[16]

Denominational positions

Most Protestant churches permit divorce, but encourage marriage counseling services or pastoral discussion first to save a marriage, saving divorce as a last resort. Sometimes the local pastor has exclusive authority over the marital business of his church, with only minimal policymaking from above. Most conservative Protestant denominations restrict divorce to specified conditions (generally cases of abandonment, abuse, or adultery), and allow remarriage in the case of the innocent victim, sometimes also permitting it if a person was divorced before becoming a Christian. Liberal denominations tend to allow or advocate lesser restraints; their position statements on such often lack substance.

Assemblies of God

In the rather detailed statement by the General Council of the Assemblies of God it is stated,

...divorce is treachery (deceitful unfaithfulness) against one’s companion. Jesus forbade divorce as contrary to God's will and word", though He "permitted a Christian to initiate a divorce when “marital unfaithfulness” was involved", with porneia being "a broad term for sexual immorality of various kinds, often habitual, both before and after marriage (Mark 7:21; Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:18; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). In stating the exception, Matthew did not use moicheia, the Greek noun for adultery. (Jesus did differentiate between porneia and moicheia elsewhere [Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21] and the verb moicheuō is used in Matthew 5:32;19:9 to describe the actions of the sinful party who forces the divorce without a valid cause.)

As regard remarriage, it holds that,

This shows that a married person who divorces a sexually immoral spouse does not cause that spouse to commit adultery, since the offender is already guilty of adultery. Paul also included an exception on behalf of the innocent spouse. In cases where unbelieving spouses were unwilling to live with partners who had become believers, Paul advised, “If the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound [not “enslaved,” douloō] in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace" (1Corinthians 7:15). “Not bound” is a strong expression that appears to mean the believer is set free. Therefore, the meaning seems to be that the believer is free to remarry.[17]


Because of the basic Baptist belief that each congregation is autonomous, any denominational statement, confession, or other such position is not binding on individual congregations, and some have adopted positions which go into detail (or not at all) and may even differ from their denomination's official position. Independent Baptist churches may have their own statement on the issue.

To the extent that the topic is covered within Baptist denominational statements, the general consensus among conservative Baptists is that marriage is considered to be a covenant (as opposed to merely a contract), and as God will not break His covenant with believers to save them, marriage is intended to mirror that covenant. Thus marriage is considered to be for life (of course, only between one man and one woman). In the event of a spouse's death the other spouse is free to remarry if s/he wishes.

But recognizing the realities of our sinful world, the groups generally permit divorce and remarriage on grounds of abandonment by a non-believing spouse (though in practice, the abandoning spouse is likely considered to not be a true believer no matter what s/he may otherwise say, and thus any abandonment is considered allowable) or adultery (but if the other party then commits adultery themselves, then divorce would not be permitted), and generally accepted in cases of abuse (especially if physical or sexual abuse of children is involved). Some (using 2 Corinthians 5:17 as a supporting text) allow a divorced person to remarry if the person was divorced before becoming a Christian.

On the other hand, liberal Baptists generally have no opposition to divorce and remarriage for any reason.

American Baptist Association (ABA)

The doctrinal statement of the ABA states: "[w]e believe the Biblical definition of marriage is the union between a man and a woman" followed by various Biblical references.[18] Nothing about divorce and remarriage is mentioned.

Baptist Missionary Association of America (BMAA)

The doctrinal statement of the BMAA states that "God created marriage", that "Jesus Christ declared the creator’s intention for marriage to be the inseparable and exclusive union between a man and a woman (natural man and natural woman)", and that it " testifies of the union between Christ and the church" each phrase followed by Biblical references.[19] Divorce and remarriage are not specifically mentioned.

Free Will Baptist

The Treatise of the Faith and Practices of the National Association of Free Will Baptists (the largest of the Free Will Baptist denominations) states that "[b]oth Scripture and nature as designed by God affirm the life-long, covenantal union of one man, being male as created by God, and one woman, being female as created by God, in a one-flesh relationship. This one-flesh relationship is emblematic of the union of Christ and His church. It is the sole and beautiful context of the divine plan for the biblical marriage of man and woman as imagebearers of God, as well as the foundation for the family as the basic, divinely ordained unit of human society. Violations of this one-flesh union, whether heterosexual or homosexual, premarital or extramarital, contravene the divine plan for the family and for the conception and rearing of children, bringing spiritual despair, guilt, and death to individuals and cultures."[20]

Southern Baptist Convention

The Baptist Faith and Message (the 2000 edition) states that "[m]arriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime."[21] However, it does not discuss any grounds on which a divorce and/or remarriage of a divorced person is permissible.

The SBC also generally holds that a divorced person, or one who marries a divorced person, is ineligible to be a pastor or deacon (or elder, in those cases where an SBC congregation has them), even if the divorce was on permissible grounds or it took place before the divorced person became a Christian, but this is also not specified in the BF&M.

As such, as SBC churches are autonomous and independent of the denomination, each church can set its own policies (even independent of the BF&M) regarding these issues. Generally, though, the more conservative congregations hold to a strict view on the topic, usually limiting divorce to specified cases (usually abandonment, abuse, or adultery), remarriage only to those cases (and sometimes allowing it if the divorce took place before salvation) and not permitting divorced persons to serve as pastors, elders or deacons in any event, while moderate ones may be more lenient on the matter.

The most recent resolution on the topic, passed at the 2010 Annual Meeting, expressed concern about the alarming divorce rate within SBC congregations, going so far as to state that "[e]ven the most expansive view of the biblical exceptions allowing for divorce and remarriage would rule out many, if not most, of the divorces in our churches" and that the expansion of the rate "has not come through a shift in theological conviction about scriptural teaching on divorce but rather through cultural accommodation".[22]

Christian and Missionary Alliance

The CMA perspective based on an Instructional Statement of The Christian and Missionary Alliance states (in part),

Divorce is a departure from the purposes of God. Jesus explained that provisions for divorce in the Old Testament were an accommodation to the hardness of people’s hearts and a necessary evil (Matt. 19:8; 19:6).
While divorce is always contrary to God’s intentions, it is permitted in certain circumstances. Jesus said in Matthew 5:32 and again in Matthew 19:9 that a person is not to divorce his or her spouse except for the cause of fornication. The Greek word used for “fornication” refers to habitual sexual immorality. It implies all kinds of immorality, including adultery, which desecrates the marriage relationship.
When one partner of a divorce has become involved in adultery, the offended spouse is permitted—though not required—to get a divorce. If an unsaved husband or wife refuses to continue to live with his or her spouse and departs, the believer may agree to this separation (1 Corinthians 7:15). Such separations may result in divorce, and in that case the Christian is guilty of no wrong.
When an adulterous relationship has brought about a divorce, the party who is innocent of adultery has a right to remarry (Matthew 5:32). The right to marry anyone guilty of adultery is denied and as well as to marry anyone who obtained divorce for the express purpose of remarriage (Mark 10:11–12).
According to 1 Corinthians 7, remarriage on grounds of desertion alone is not permitted. When two unbelievers have been divorced and one is subsequently converted and neither has remarried, the Christian should attempt to restore the marriage. If the non-Christian refuses, this makes the marriage the same as the kind described in 1 Corinthians 7:15.
If a person is divorced on other than the above scriptural grounds and his or her former partner remarries, that partner by remarrying has, according to scriptural standards (Matt. 5:32 and 19:9), committed adultery and has dissolved the original relationship.
Persons who remarry after being divorced on other than scriptural grounds are guilty of adultery (Matthew 5:32). A Christian clergyman should not perform such marriages.[23]

Churches of Christ

As Churches of Christ are independent of each other and are not organized in a formal denomination, each church has its own views on the matter.

In what is likely a very minority position on the matter, some Churches of Christ hold to what is likely the hardest position on divorce and remarriage, believing adultery to be the only Biblical ground, and further advocate that if a person is divorced and remarried (outside of grounds of adultery) before becoming a Christian, the person is still required to divorce his/her current spouse and either remarry their former spouse or remain unmarried, or else they continue to commit adultery.

Evangelical Lutheran

In a non-binding, declaration, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, without providing clear criteria states,

If after careful consideration the marriage relationship is deemed beyond repair, and the effects of continuing the marriage to be more destructive of the welfare or persons than divorce, the decision for divorce may be recognized as a responsible choice, the lesser of several evils in a fallen world....Remarriage of divorced persons is neither forbidden nor automatically endorsed by The American Lutheran Church.[24]

In Common Convictions, adopted by the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on November 9, 1996, the section on "The ending of a marriage" ambiguously states,

In some situations, however, divorce may be the better option.

Evangelical Presbyterian Church

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church Position Paper on Divorce & Remarriage (adopted at the 15th General Assembly, June 1995) states that,

...marriage is a sworn fidelity, whereby God joins a man and a woman in life-long companionship. Nevertheless, divorce is permitted only in circumstances of grave repudiation of the marriage covenant, namely adultery and willful, irremediable desertion.
Adultery is a radical breach of marital fidelity, violating the commitment of exclusive conjugal love...Christ's teaching is that if a divorce takes place on any other grounds than that of marital unfaithfulness, it can have no sanction from God, and any new marriage which follows is an adulterous act, since from God's standpoint the original couple is still married to each other. Matthew 19:9 indicates that a valid divorce (on the grounds of marital unfaithfulness) entails the right to remarry...
Desertion is the destruction of the marriage which the Christian spouse was unable to prevent. The believer in such a case is not bound (that is, he or she is free to divorce and remarry); for Paul says, "God has called us to live in peace." (1 Cor. 7:15)[25]

Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod

The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod states that

While divorce can be justified Scripturally in certain situations (e.g., adultery or desertion), it is always preferable for couples to forgive and work toward healing and strengthening their marriage.

In the 1987 study, Divorce and Remarriage: An Exegetical Study", it is stated,

A person who divorces his/her spouse for any other cause than sexual unfaithfulness and marries another commits adultery. have no prohibition on divorce.[26]


Mennonite founder Menno Simons (ca. 1496-1561) clarified the Anabaptist position on divorce, based directly on the words of Christ and of the Apostle Paul, with adultery being the only acceptable ground for divorce.

And also, that the bond of undefiled, honorable matrimony is so unchangeably bound in the kingdom and government of Christ that neither a man nor a woman can forsake one the other, and take another, understand rightly what Christ says, except it be for fornication, Matthew 19:9.Divorce has not permitted among the Anabaptists and Mennonites from the earliest times to the mid-20th century except for the cause of adultery, in accordance with the Biblical standard as found in Matthew 19:9, although separation (either legal or privately arranged) was generally allowed.

The Wismar Resolutions of 1554, (as quoted in Mennonitisches Lexikon I, 530) stated:

Adultery on the part of one member breaks the marriage relationship. However, the responsible party may return to re-establish the relationship provided he (or she) gives evidence of due repentance and a changed life. In cases of deliberate adultery, the innocent party may be free to remarry after consulting with the congregation." The position taken by the Hutterian Brethren was ". . . that nothing can break the marriage bond except adultery. In cases where a man is married to an unbelieving woman, and she desires to live with him, he may not divorce her (nor vice versa). If the unbelieving husband threatens her faith or hinders the training of the children in the faith, she may divorce her husband, but must not remarry so long as that man is living.[27]

However, the statement of position and policy adopted on June 24, 1983, by the Southeastern Mennonite Conference, states

Scripturally, there is nothing which breaks the marriage bond except death. The act of adultery does not dissolve the marriage bond, although it decidedly affects the quality of a marriage relationship and leaves a permanent scar on the persons involved. A legal document called divorce, from God's point of view, does not break the marriage bond, else remarriage would not be adultery. Even the conversion of one of two unbelieving married partners does not dissolve the marriage bond. If the unbelieving partner should leave, the marriage bond continues.[28]

Orthodox Church in America

The OCA takes a liberal position on divorce, as stated in the Q+A section of its official web site:

Regarding divorce, the Orthodox follow Christ in recognizing it as a tragedy and a lack of fulfillment of marriage as the reflection of divine love in the world. The Church teaches the uniqueness of marriage, if it will be perfect, and is opposed to divorce absolutely.
If, however, a marriage breaks down and collapses, the Orthodox Church does in fact allow a second marriage, without excommunication, that is, exclusion from Holy Communion, if there is repentance and a good chance that the new alliance can be Christian.
More than one marriage in any case, however, is frowned upon. It is not allowed to the clergy, and the service of second marriage for laymen is a special rite different from the sacrament as originally celebrated.[29]

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

In 1992 the Presbyterian church stated in Minutes of the General Assembly (p. 62) that divorce was allowed under Biblical grounds.

Reformed Church in America

Reformed Church in America stated [1] that

God's intention for marriage is permanency. Divorce involves sin. There are only two permissible grounds for divorce: adultery, based on the exceptive clause in Matthew 19:9, and desertion of the believing spouse by the unbeliever, based upon the so-called "Pauline Privilege" in I Corinthians 7:15.[30]

Roman Catholicism

In ancient time Roman Catholics could possibly obtain divorces for either of the two traditional reasons,[31] Later Canon law does not admit divorce. The Catholic Church has a process of annulment based on the non-fulfilment of any of the religious marriage requirements, such as individual freedom or a previous unmarried state. In addition, various other conditions are recognized as possible grounds for annulment. Technically, an annulment is not a divorce but a declaration that a valid marriage never took place. Current available statistics show 53,885 annulments were granted to Catholics in the United States[32] and 638,705 from 1984 to 705[meaning unclear], the large majority being for "defective consent", meaning deceit by one of the parties.[33] Other common grounds for annulment include "lack of due discretion" in choosing a spouse, "psychic incapacity" to fulfill marital obligations, "defect of form", referring to a marriage that was not performed in the Catholic Church, and "prior bond", meaning one of the partners was married to someone else at the time of the wedding.[34]

In the 2004 Presidential election season many devout Catholics were scandalized by Senator John Kerry, now married to his second wife, taking Holy Communion without having obtained an annulment. Some charge Catholicism with engaging in deception by using annulments to circumvent its prohibition on divorce,[35] while it is pointed out that the Bible considered people married even when joined under conditions which might quality as grounds for annulments.[36]

The current catechism states, in part,

The remarriage of persons divorced from a living, lawful spouse contravenes the plan and law of God as taught by Christ. They are not separated from the Church, but they cannot receive Eucharistic communion.[37]

United Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church position is that "When marriage partners are estranged beyond reconciliation, the church recognizes divorce as regrettable, but also recognizes the right of divorced persons to remarry."[38]

United Church of Christ

The United Church of Christ (a very liberal denomination) holds that "Divorced and remarried persons are welcome to participate fully in the life of the church."[39]

Wesleyan Church

The Wesleyan Church states,

The only scriptural grounds for considering divorce is the sexual sin of the spouse such as adultery, homosexual behavior, bestiality, or incest. Appropriate counseling to restore the relationship must always precede a consideration of divorce. To obtain a divorce on other than scriptural grounds is a sin against God and man. Such putting asunder of what God has joined is a direct and deliberate act of disobedience against both the Law and the Gospel. It separates one from God and subjects a member to Church discipline (5350; 5370). (Discipline 265:10; 410:6) Divorce, however sinful the act and however serious the consequences, is not unpardonable. A redeemed sinner or reclaimed backslider is “free” to marry “in the Lord” or to remain unmarried...[40]

Secular view

Divorce laws vary from state to state. Divorce is also legally distinct from annulment, which is only allowed in limited cases and usually only within the earliest periods of a marriage. A divorce recognizes the legal end of a marriage; an annulment acts as if there was never a marriage from the outset.

No-fault divorce

In 1969, California became the first U.S. state to legalize no-fault divorce. Under the common unilateral divorce laws (also known as no-fault divorce), either party can demand and get a divorce at any time and for any reason with marital assets being split evenly (or "equitably", as in Texas; for example a woman who worked at home may get a larger share of the estate due to her being outside the workforce or being granted custody of any children).

The "no-fault" provisions only apply in that allegations of fault cannot prohibit the divorce from being granted, but courts do consider allegations of fault when children are involved in regards to awarding of custody, and in some cases in the awarding of marital assets.

Atheism and divorce

See also: Atheism and divorce and Atheism, divorce, love and poor interpersonal skills

Richard Dawkins
The new atheist Richard Dawkins was leading figure in the Elevatorgate controversy.

Richard Dawkins has been divorced three times. See: Atheism and divorce and Richard Dawkins and women

The atheist divorce rate is a steep 37%.[41] Additionally, 51% of atheists are likely to cohabit and 31% of atheists never actually get married.[41] Christian apologist Michael Caputo wrote: "Recently the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has published its mammoth study on Religion in America based on 35,000 interviews... According to the Pew Forum a whopping 37% of atheists never marry as opposed to 19% of the American population, 17% of Protestants and 17% of Catholics."[42]

Scientific research has demonstrated that active churchgoers are "35% less likely to divorce than those who have no religious preferences".[43]

According to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) over 50% of all atheists and agnostics don’t get married.[44] See also: Atheism and marriage

The fertility rate is significantly lower in the atheist population (see: Atheism and fertility rates).

In relation to atheism and divorce, Vox Day wrote in his book The Irrational Atheist about atheist Daniel Dennett's arguments related to divorce:

Dennett further claims that “brights” have better family values than born-again Christians based on “the lowest divorce rate in the United States” which depends on the flawed 1999 Barna study instead of the 2001 ARIS study he makes use of later in the book, a much larger study that reaches precisely the opposite conclusion. It is certainly a quixotic assertion, considering that these family value atheists are half as likely to get married, twice as likely to divorce, and have fewer children than any other group in the United States...

Barna calculated divorces as a percentage of the entire group, not as a percentage of marriages within that group. Since according to ARIS 2001 more than half of all atheists and agnostics don’t get married, this is an apple-orange comparison. If one correctly excludes the never-married from the calculation, then atheists are 58.7 percent more likely to get divorced than Pentecostals and Baptists, the two born-again Christian groups with the highest rate of divorce, and more than twice as likely to get divorced than Christians in general.[45]

For additional information, please see: Atheism, divorce, addiction, sexual satisfaction, social skills, dysfunctional beliefs and attitudes, and irrationality

Divorce Rate

The United States has a divorce rate of 3.6 per 1,000 as of 2005.[46] This results in a 41% failure rate for first marriages.[47]

In times past, the divorce rate was statistically much lower. Divorce affects more than the spouses; it also causes pain for any children from the marriage where the non-custodial parent is often seen less often or in some cases not at all. It is common for children to blame themselves for the divorce. Relationship difficulties for the children are especially common into later life if either of the parents is poisoning the relationship with the children for the other by making negative comments to the kids.


According to a Barna Group study from 1999 with a sample size of 3854, the percentage of atheists getting divorced was lower than that for Christians or Jews[48]

However, a follow up study in 2001 that looked into cohabitation trends found that Christians weren't cohabitating in the same proportions as non-Christians and that was affecting the results from the 1999 study. Checking for born again Christians specifically, it was found that 80% of born again Christians were or had been married compared to 69% for all other groups. When this was adjusted for, it gave born again Christians a slightly lower divorce rate than the general population. The difference is within the margin of error.[49]

In addition, The Barna Group has traditionally used nine doctrinal questions to categorize people as evangelicals, which distinguishes them from those who only fit the category of "born again" Christians. Using this criteria, just 8% of the adult population in 2006 were considered evangelical.[50]

Another Barna study in 2004 looking only at people who had married and their rate of divorce (sample size of 3,614) found that there was no difference in divorce rate between born again Christians and other Christians and that Christians on a whole had a slightly lower percentage of divorce when compared to atheists and agnostics. The difference is within the margin of error.[51]

A later study in 2008 revealed that while 78% of adult Americans have been married at least once, the percentage of born again Christians who married was 84%. Among atheists and agnostics that percentage was 65%, and 74% for those aligned with non-Christian faiths.

The study also showed that 33% of all adult Americans have experienced at least one divorce. The greatest disparity related to income, with the divorce rate among "downscale adults" being 39%, versus 22% for "upscale adults." As relates to ideological differences, the lowest likelihood of having been divorced after marriage was among evangelicals (26%), and Catholics (28%). The percentage among atheists was 30%, and 37% for people who consider themselves to be liberal on social and political issues. Among "born again" adults the divorce rate was identical to that of the national average of 33%. The study did not determine whether a divorce occurred prior to the person becoming become born again, though previous research indicated that applied to 20% of people in this class.[52]

Among those churches (e.g., Anabaptist and Conservative Holiness) that recognize no alleged Scriptural exceptions for divorce (and thus prohibit remarriage), the divorce rate is much lower. Among the Mennonites and Amish it is 0.3%.


The Barna study from 2004 also found that there was a large difference in divorce rates between baby boomers and the generations before, with the boomers having a much higher rate of marital failure. It is estimated that the boomers may pass a 50% rate of divorce. The generation after the boomers, the baby busters, appears to be heading to a similar rate of marital failure as the boomers based on early data.[53]


In the US, divorce rates vary substantially among the states. According to a Wall Street Journal article,[54] the states with the lowest rate of divorce in 2009 were Massachusetts (1.8 divorces per 1,000 people), the District of Columbia (2.1), Pennsylvania (2.3), Iowa (2.5), and New York (2.5). Those states with the highest divorce rates were Idaho (5.0), West Virginia (5.0), Wyoming (5.2), Arkansas (5.6), and Nevada (6.6).

Covenant Marriage

In order to help solve the social problems created by inordinately high divorce rates, some states have begun passing laws enabling covenant marriages. A covenant marriage in some cases is harder to obtain than a default lawful marriage license and also is more difficult to break (the common exceptions being abuse, abandonment or adultery).[55]

Psychological and sociological research about individuals with multiple divorces

See also: Psychological and sociological research about individuals with multiple divorces

The abstract for the journal article Personality and multiple divorce. A prospective study. indicates:

"A review of cross-sectional and prospective research in both normal and clinical samples suggests that increased risk of divorce is associated with socially nonconforming, impulsive, and stimulus-seeking personality traits. This exploratory study addresses the question of whether individuals who divorce more than once are especially likely to exhibit such general personality dispositions. Subjects were male physicians (N = 431) who had completed the MMPI before entering medical school and who were followed up more than two decades later by a mail questionnaire that inquired about their health status, health practices, subjective well-being, and marital history. As indicated by higher scores on the MMPI Psychopathic Deviate (Pd) scale and greater likelihood of concurrently reporting several negative health practices (e.g., cigarette smoking), multiply divorced physicians did tend to exhibit greater nonconforming, impulsive, and risk-taking tendencies than both never-divorced and once-divorced physicians. Possible social-psychological processes linking such personality dispositions to the risk of multiple divorce are discussed, along with suggestions for further research."[56]
Narcissistic rage is an outburst of intense anger or silence that can happen to someone with narcissistic personality disorder.[57]

Narcissism and invididuals who have multiple divorces

The abstract for journal article Personality characteristics of Divorce-Prone individuals: A preliminary clinical study published in the journal Contemporary Family Therapy indicates:

This study focuses on Divorce-Prone individuals and the question of why some persons fail in one marriage after another. The authors studied 12 individuals who had each been divorced two or more times. They found that the cases fell into one of three broad and overlapping groups. The groups have been called the Self-Involved Narcissists, the Compliant Depressed, and the Casualties of Life's Vicissitudes. The individuals and the groups demonstrate a different etiology, different treatment problems, and a very different prognosis.[58]

According to the psychologist Holly Parker who teaches the course "The Psychology of Close Relationships" at Harvard University, "Research does suggest that people who marry multiple times are more likely (than people who do not marry multiple times) to have personality traits and issues with emotional health that make it difficult to maintain satisfying, long-term relationships. That can mean, even if you're not looking for anything lasting, you won't have much fun with a narcissist whose self-absorption and emotional detachment helped end several marriages."[59]


  1. Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families, Annie E. Casie Foundation website
  2. Histrionic Personality Disorder, National Library of Medicine
  3. Histrionic Personality Disorder, Cleveland Clinic
  4. Paranoid personality disorder, Cleveland Clinic
  5. Personality Disorder Symptoms Are Differentially Related to Divorce Frequency by Krystle L., Disney, Yana Weinstein, and Thomas F. Oltmanns, Journal of Family Psychology. 2012 Dec; 26(6): 959–965.doi: 10.1037/a0030446
  6. Southern California Christian Times, Feb 2000, Pg 14
  7. The 4 Communication Styles That Lead To Divorce With 90% Accuracy by Sandra Aponte, MA, RMHCI
  8. The Link Between Alcoholism and Divorce
  9. Natural Family Planning and Marital Chastity: The Effects of Periodic Abstinence on Marital Relationships, The Linacre Quarterly. 2021 Feb;88(1):42-55. doi: 10.1177/0024363920930875. Epub 2020 Jun 12.
  10. Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible; Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible; John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible on Mt. 5:32; 19:9
  11. Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown
  12. Ibid. Boardman
  13. Religion: Ground for Divorce; Time magazine, Monday, May. 23, 192
  14. According to the Talmud and the Rabbins, this refers to those who were begotten in incest or adultery (cf. Ges. thes. p. 781), and is seen by Maimonides and Matthew Henry as being for deterrent effect, while Jephthah (Judges 11:1) seems to be an exception to this, as Ruth is in the next verse. See John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible. And as Henry notes, interpreters also are not agreed what is here meant by "entering into the congregation of the Lord."
  15. Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, Dt. 23:2
  16. DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE UNDER GOD By L. S. Boardman The Problem of Divorce and Remarriage Scripturally Examined in the Light of the Original Text
  17. AG Position Papers: Divorce and Remarriage Application of Biblical Principles
  18. ABA Beliefs, Article 22.
  19. https://bmaamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/BMAADoctrinalStatement.pdf
  20. A Treatise of the Faith and Practices of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, Inc., Part II, Chapter IV Amendment adopted July 2008.
  21. https://bfm.sbc.net/bfm2000/#xviii-the-family
  22. https://www.sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions/on-the-scandal-of-southern-baptist-divorce/
  23. Divorce and Remarriage
  24. Teachings and Practice on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage. A Social Statement of the American Lutheran Church, a predecessor church body of the ELCA (1982)
  25. Position Paper on Divorce & Remarriage
  26. How is divorce viewed in the LCMS?
  27. The Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO) "Divorce and Remarriage
  28. Statement of Position on Divorce and Remarriage
  29. The Orthodox Church in America: Divorce, Birth Control, Abortion
  30. Understanding Protestant Churches of North America (2003) by Shelly Steig,
  31. Dissolution and annulment of marriage by the Catholic Church, by Eileen F. Stuart, p. 82
  32. Vatican's 2004 Statistical Yearbook of the Church
  33. What God has joined together, pp. 25,26, by Robert H. Vasoli
  34. John T. Catoir, J.C.D., "Understanding Annulments," St. Anthony Messenger, 1998; http://www.twopaths.com/faq_marriage.htm
  35. Catholic Divorce: The Deception of Annulments, Pierre Hegy, Joseph Martos (Editors)
  36. Papal Presumption
  37. Catechism of the Catholic Church, (c) 1994, 1997; #1665
  38. http://www.accsd.org/UnitedMethodist.html
  39. http://www.accsd.org/UCC.html
  40. Standing Firm 10-17-01
  41. 41.0 41.1 Post Scriptum to Original Article, "Atheism and Divorce.". Atheism Exposed (2008).
  42. https://creation.com/atheism
  43. Is the divorce rate among Christians truly the same as among non-Christians?. GotQuestions.org.
  44. https://creation.com/atheism
  45. The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, And Hitchens by Vox Day, ASIN: ‎ 1933771364, Publisher: BenBella Books (March 11, 2008)
  46. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr54/nvsr54_20.pdf
  47. http://www.divorcerate.org/
  48. http://www.adherents.com/largecom/baptist_divorce.html
  49. http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=95
  50. Survey Explores Who Qualifies As an Evangelical, 2007, The Barna Group
  51. http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=170
  52. New Marriage and Divorce Statistics Released, March 31, 2008, The Barna Group
  53. http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=170
  54. http://s.wsj.net/public/resources/documents/st_DIVORCE_20100813.html
  55. http://marriage.about.com/cs/covenantmarriage/a/covenant.htm
  56. Personality and multiple divorce. A prospective study, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.1986 Mar;174(3):161-4. doi: 10.1097/00005053-198603000-00006
  57. What Is Narcissistic Rage, and What’s the Best Way to Deal with It?, Healthline.com
  58. Personality characteristics of Divorce-Prone individuals: A preliminary clinical study by Robert M. Counts MD & Anita Sacks MSW, volume 8, pages111–123 (1986)
  59. Dating in an age of multiple divorces by Richard Asa, Chicago Tribune, January 16, 2013