Generation X and the Case for Collaborative Divorce


Likening the question of “When did your parents get divorced?” to other generational defining moments such as “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” a recent Wall Street Journal article discusses the impact of divorce on Generation X.

According to the article, divorce rates peaked around 1980 and are now at their lowest level since 1970.  The U.S. Census released data this May indicating that 77% of couples who married since 1990 have reached their 10-year anniversaries.  

The census data also indicates that people are marring later in life, if at all.  The average marrying age in 1950 was 23 for men and 20 for women; in 2099, it was 28 for men and 26 for women.  

Another possible factor is the social acceptance of cohabitation before marriage.  A 2007 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that, among those entering first marriages in the early 2000s, nearly 60% had previously cohabitated with their future spouses.  According to the U.S. government’s 2002 National Survey of Fertility Growth, 34% of couples who move in together have announced publicly that marriage is in the future; 36% felt “almost certain” that they’d get hitched, while 46% said there was “a pretty good chance” or a “50-50 chance.”

It seems that not only are marriage statistics in a fluid state, but so are traditional roles in the marital home.  Sociologists, anthropologist and other cultural observers tell us that members of Generation X are more emotionally invested in our spouses than previous generations were, and Generation X spouses are best friends and genuine partners.  Many studies have found that Generation X family men help around the house a good deal more than their forefathers.  A 2003 study by the late psychologist Shirley Glass found that the mores of sexual infidelity are undergoing a profound change.  The traditional standard for men - love is love and sex is sex - is dying out.  

The writer of the WSJ article talks about her own divorce and how she and her former husband wanted to do it as “well” as possible.  In the writer’s mind, this meant a “friendly divorce”, one that is relatively inexpensive and non-adversarial.  

This so called “friendly divorce” otherwise known as “collaborative divorce” is more common now than ever.  Many Generation X spouses are all too familiar with the brutal court fights their parents endured and have no intention of putting themselves or their children through the same battle.  According to a recent University of Virginia study, couples who decide to mediate their divorce are more likely than those who go to court to talk regularly about the children’s needs and problems, to participate in school and special events, daily activities, holidays and vacations.  

While it was once typical for dads to “recede from family life, or drop out altogether, in the wake of divorce”, it is now common for dad’s to have joint physical and/or legal custody and play an equally important role in the lives of their children post divorce.  

Joint custody not only helps the parents but can also reduce family strife.  According to a 2001 study, couples with such arrangements report less conflict with their former spouses than sole-custody parents. 

Click here for the full text of the Wall Street Journal Article, “The Divorce Generation”

For more information about collaborative divorce or to make an appointment to speak with a collaborative divorce attorney in Los Angeles or Marin County, please call 877.887.4403 or email