Monthly Vital Statistics Reports

Advance Report of Final Divorce Statistics, 1989 and 1990

The National Center for Health Statistics has released a new report, Advance Report of Final Divorce Statistics, 1989 and 1990, which show divorces recorded in 1989 and 1990. There were 1,157,000 divorces in 1989, and the 1990 total of 1,182,000 divorces is the highest number recorded since 1985, which was 1,190,000 divorces.

Starting with 1989 data collection, statistics were collected on physical custody of children involved in divorce. In 1990 the wife was awarded custody of the children 72 percent of the time in divorces in which custody was awarded. Joint custody was the second most common arrangement (16 percent), while husbands were awarded custody in 9 percent of divorces in 1990. Statistical information is obtained directly from the divorce certificates that are collected by the Vital Records Office from each State and the District of Columbia.

Data Highlights:

  • The divorce rate per 1,000 population was 4.7 in 1989 and 1990 and is 11 percent lower than the peak rate of 5.3 in 1979 and 1981.
  • In 1990, 16.8 per 1,000 children under the age of 18 years were involved in divorce.
  • Most divorces occur within the first 10 years of marriage.
    • The median duration of marriage for divorcing couples in 1989 and 1990 was 7.2 years.