5 Factors That Put You at Risk for Divorce (and What to Do About Them)

You might be surprised at some of the red flags that could mean a couple is headed for divorce court.


No one ever gets married with the intention of getting divorced. At least, I think no one does. So it stands to reason that we all wonder what we could be doing (or not doing) to improve our chances of marital bliss.

And for that reason, I was intrigued when some information from family law firm McKinley Irvin landed in my inbox regarding which couples seem to be most likely to end up in divorce court. I talked to J. Blake Hilty, an associate attorney with McKinley Irvin, for his take on the findings as well as his advice for couples.

You’re more likely to get divorced if

The infographic on this page provides all of McKinley Irvin’s findings, but here are five factors that could mean you’re more likely to call it splits with your spouse.

• You lived together before getting married.
• You skipped going to college.
• You live in a red state.
• You have a daughter.
• You spent more than $20,000 on your wedding.

Some of these you might expect – a couple that spends $20,000 on a wedding may be more focused on preparing for their big day than for the marriage that will follow – but others don’t make as much sense. I mean, what does this say about us daughters? That we’re high drama and super stressful for our parents?

Hilty said he did not find any of the specific findings surprising, but he was surprised at how most of the reasons for divorce can usually be lumped into two categories. “Finances and children are the main topics that lead to divorce,” he says.

How to avoid divorce court

If you want to avoid a divorce, your best bet is to start taking steps before getting married.

“People get married without squaring away their thoughts on kids,” Hilty says. Or “one spouse will want to save, save, save, and the other spouse is completely different.”

Anatomy of a Divorce_McKinley Irvin Infographic

Failure to get on the same page before marriage is a surefire way to put your wedded bliss in jeopardy. However, even those who do have similar beliefs are destined to have disagreements. In fact, Hilty says conflict is a certainty.

The key to a happy marriage is successfully negotiating those conflicts in a way that is loving and respectful. There’s a reason couples who roll their eyes are more likely to divorce. Everything about an eye roll says “you’re ridiculous and I couldn’t care less about your feelings.” That’s not a healthy message to send to the supposed love of your life.

Do you need a divorce attorney?

Despite good intentions, plenty of divorces happen all the time, one every 36 seconds, according to McKinley Irvin. So what do you do if your marriage is dissolving?

“First and foremost, I do completely think people need to see an attorney,” Hilty says, “even if it’s just for an hour consultation.”

Of course, a divorce attorney has a vested interest in people getting legal representation, but Hilty says his advice isn’t about drumming up business. “That way you know what’s out there in terms of your rights and obligations,” he says.

You could go in for a free consultation and find your divorce situation is fairly simple. Maybe there are no kids involved, no investment accounts and a minimal amount in your savings account. In that case, you could probably save the attorney fees and have a DIY divorce.

However, if you have complex investments, valuable property or kids, you may need an attorney to be sure you don’t end up getting shorted in the proceedings. To make the most of your initial (and usually free) consultation, gather up all your important documents, such as bank statements and tax returns, and bring them with you.

What else to do if a split is inevitable

Beyond hiring an attorney, Hilty says people going through a divorce should also consider looking for a therapist. “I always talk with clients about counseling,” he says, noting divorce is almost always highly emotional. “Keeping your sanity on a personal level is important.”

For those with kids, Hilty stresses keeping their schedule and routines as close to normal as possible is important to helping them transition from a dual-parent household to shared parenting time. And above all, resist the urge to unload about the divorce in front of your children. “Do not under any circumstances talk to or around the kids,” Hilty says. Doing so could put them in an awkward situation of feeling like they have to choose sides or it could comprise a potential settlement if children share what you said with your soon-to-be ex.

But before you give up completely, talk to a marriage counselor to see if your union can be salvaged. If finances are a problem, we also have advice on how to save your financially stressed marriage.

Are you surprised by the factors associated with an increased likelihood of divorce? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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