Do women file 70-80% of divorces in the U.S.?

It's probably not quite as high as 70%, but it's close. According to Stanford professor Dr. Michael Rosenfeld's 2017 study, about 2-in-3 divorces or 66% to 69% percent of U.S. divorces are wanted by the wife. The same is true in Europe and Australia.

When you look closely at the factors, it's no wonder that women initiate divorce proceedings more frequently than men. Men cheat twice as much. Men are five times more likely to be highly violent (criminally violent) and twice as likely to have a substance addiction so serious that professional treatment is recommended. But no one talks about that. People who like to shame women often use this 70% statistic as a "gotcha." It’s not. Divorce is a complex issue and grasping for an easy answer doesn't help the situation.


This old adage has a kernel of truth:

“Men cheat; women file.”


1. Men cheat twice as much as women. They have far higher infidelity rates. [1]

Mens and women's infidelity rates
Mens and women's infidelity rates

Even those who attend church every week commit adultery. About 14 in 100 said they had had sex with someone else while married, according to the Institute for Family Studies.

Infidelity Among Weekly, Monthly and Yearly Churchgoers
Infidelity Among Weekly, Monthly and Yearly Churchgoers

2.  Men’s drug/alcohol use is much higher. Men wind up in substance use treatment programs at about double the rate of women. [2]

Admissions are just under 70% men and slightly more than 30% women.

3. Men have a 5-times higher rate of serious violent behavior (for example, aggravated assault) than women. [3]

Men vs Women's rates of aggravated assault


The top 5 reasons that women file for divorce are [4]:

—1. Verbal, emotional, or physical abuse

—2. Infidelity

—3. Different values or lifestyles

—4. Alcohol or drug use

—5. Control freak

Women are not interested in investing in a marriage to a selfish, mean, unfaithful, addicted, negligent, or violent husband who doesn't lift a finger to make it better. (And of course, vice versa, husbands aren't interested in destructive wives either.)


Are there divorces for other serious problems?

Yes, of course. There are some “you’re never home” divorces, or "money problems" divorces, or "failure to provide" divorces, or “your parents are too involved in our lives” divorces, or “sexual problems” divorces. But these reasons get fewer votes in surveys. And let's not forget that a high percentage of coerced marriages end in divorce, such as marriages between an underage rape victim and her perpetrator. 

Are there "frivolous" divorces?

Sure, there are immature, selfish divorces. There are people who divorced because they were bored or missed the party life, or just wanted the white dress and big party. But I don't see these kinds of divorces among committed Christians I meet in my divorce recovery groups at church.


Destructive Behavior Drives a Portion of Divorces

One-half of U.S. divorces are for very serious reasons, such as adultery, abuse, addictions, and abandonment of duty. If people behaved well, the divorce rate would drop like a rock…that goes for men and women. You may have noticed in the third illustration that men's aggravated assault rates reduced over the last 30 years. That is one factor in the dramatic drop in divorce rates. As of 2021, the U.S. divorce rate is lower than it was 50 years ago (and no, that's not because of cohabitation: it's calculated as a percentage of married people in the U.S. who divorce, not the percentage of all people in the U.S.). When people enter marriage, they expect it to be safe, faithful, and loving, or at least respectful. When those reasonable expectations aren't met, and that dynamic becomes a pattern, then the invested spouse (usually the wife, but sometimes the husband) wants out.


Could wives simply want to divorce for the money?

That is the claim some people make: that women are merely looking for sperm donors, and once they have a child, they oust the father and want his money in the form of child support or spousal support.  But Dr. Rosenfeld studied this hypothesis (p. 21) and found this is not the case. He doesn't see it in the data. [5]


Bottom line: If men behaved better, women wouldn’t file for divorce at such a high rate.




[1] Dow, J., “Predicting Infidelity: An Updated Look at Who Is Most Likely to Cheat in America” Institute for Family Studies, September 21, 2020, captured online:

[2] Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use Disorder Treatment.

[3] Lauritsen, Heimer, Lynch, “Trends In The Gender Gap In Violent Offending: New Evidence From The National Crime Victimization Survey” Criminology Volume 47 Number 2 2009, p. 379

[4] Montenegro, X., “The Divorce Experience: A Study of Divorce at Midlife and Beyond,” AARP the Magazine (May 2004), a study of individuals who had one or more divorces at age 40 or higher, accessed 1/10/20,

[5] Rosenfeld, M., "Who Wants the Breakup? The Gender and Breakup in Heterosexual Couples," 2017. pp. 1 and 21.

Are you going through a life-saving divorce? I’d like to invite you to my private Facebook group, "Life-Saving Divorce for Separated or Divorced Christians." Just click the link and ANSWER the 3 QUESTIONS. This is a group for women and men of faith who have walked this path, or are considering it. Supporters and people helpers are also welcome.  I’ve written a book about spiritual abuse and divorce for Christians. Also, sign up for my email list below.



Start Here

Physical and Emotional Abuse & Infidelity

God Allows Divorce to Protect Victims


Does God Hate Divorce? No, Most English Bible Translations Don’t Say That


How to Find a Good Supportive Church


What If My Pastor Says It Would Be Wrong to Get Divorced for Abuse?


Divorce Saves Lives: The Surprising (Wonderful!) Truth About Divorce Nobody Told You

Will I Ever Find Love Again? Dating After Divorce: Good News

Finding Happiness and Health After Divorce


Thriving After Divorce: These Christians Tell their Stories

Self-Doubt, Second-Guessing Ourselves, and Gaslighting

Children and Divorce: Researchers Give Hope


High Conflict Divorce and Parenting

Recommended Reading List and Free Resources for Christians and Other People of Faith


Common Myths






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