What I’ve Noticed About Divorce In The United States

It’s hard to come to a new country without recognizing the differences in family life after you’ve been there for a while. I’m an adult who moved here from France, and most of my friends are adults who moved here from other parts of the country. But sooner or later I started to get a glimpse of home life from those few friends who were born and raised in Los Angeles, and I’ve noticed a number of differences in perceptions of divorce between the two countries.

Americans seem to have this frame of mind wherein divorce is the end of the world, regardless of the fact that researchers have long since proved otherwise. Attraction between two people might start out very romantic and affectionate, but as the years roll by the pair’s relationship will often sour. That shouldn’t be a surprise — there are fewer new experiences, and both partners know everything there is to know about one another. There’s less excitement.

Partners have two obvious options when the relationship becomes stale: they can seek to find new experiences to share to keep the romance alive (as counselors will sometimes advise partners to do), or they can divorce. The choice is ultimately up to those who were once in love, but is either option worse than the other?

Not in my mind.

Either way, you’re seeking a new experience. It’s just about whether or not you want to have it with the person you’ve been with for a while, or with someone new. What’s the big deal?

But to Americans it’s a big deal. A lot of people will call marriage “broken” in the United States because the divorce rate is so high. But in my mind it isn’t that high. Here in the U.S., the divorce rate is about 46 percent and seems to be on the decline. In France, where divorce is just a part of life, the divorce rate stands at 55 percent — and the divorce process is France is a lot more annoying than it is here.

It’s easy in America: you hire an uncontested divorce attorney if you haven’t been together long, or you hire a family law attorney if you have. There are only two types of divorce: fault or no-fault. 

In France, it’s different. There are five types of divorce: divorce by mutual consent (no judge required), divorce by mutual legal consent (i.e. with a judge), divorce on the basis of a “broken” marriage, divorce based on irrevocable damage to the conjugal bond, or fault divorce. Most divorce proceedings requiring a judicial ruling in France also require both parties to at least attempt to reconcile. It’s far more complicated for us, and we still do it more often!