Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Latest Marriage/Divorce Score: 972 to 427

Rockingham County Court House
Every January since 1996 the clerk of the local Circuit Court kindly provides me with statistics of marriage licenses issued and divorces granted in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County in the previous year.

Since our population has increased significantly in the past two decades one would expect a steady rise in marriage numbers, but that isn't the case. Those numbers have been flat even though our population has increased by some 25% over the past two decades.

That hardly means fewer couples are pairing up, but simply that we have ever more people hooking up and breaking up in undocumented (common law) relationships. Unfortunately, we have no record of how many of cohabiting couples go through their own "divorces", with consequences just as distressing as those experienced by their legally married counterparts.

With fewer registered marriages we should also be able to expect fewer registered divorces. But that isn't true, either, as you will see below:

Year           Marriages     Divorces

1996            873                 387
1997            950                 405
1998            964                 396
1999            932                 405
2000           947                 365
2001         1003                438     (most annual marriages
2002           976                 421
2003           961                 399
2004           959                 437
2005           889                 381
2006           929                 389
2007           925                 434
2008           950                 405
2009           903                 347     (fewest annual divorces)
2010           879                 358     (fewest annual marriages since 1996)
2011            933                 433
2012            995                 445
2013            924                 484     (most annual divorces)
2014            972                 427
Given the fact that every divorce, documented or otherwise, profoundly impacts not only the couple involved, but the lives of parents, siblings, friends and especially any children involved, the number of our neighbors scarred by dysfunctional marriages and destructive divorces each year is incalculable.

I'm not prepared to make a cause and effect case here, but I can't help but note that as the percentage of adults who marry has steadily decreased relative to our population, the number of inmates in our jail has increased by over 500%! Of course that is much more likely a result of a criminal justice system gone awry than anything else, but neither mass incarceration nor more and more family breakups are signs of a truly healthy community.

Click here for additional posts on divorce.

Here's the graph to the year 2012:
Here's our population growth:

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