Choosing Marital Separation Over Divorce
August 20, 2012

Poor Couples, Ethnic Minorities Choosing Separation Over Divorce

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Fifteen percent of married couples who undergo long-term separations remain apart, without getting divorced or reconciling, researchers from Ohio State University (OSU) have discovered.

In a nationwide study, doctoral student Dmitry Tumin and sociology professor Zhenchao Qian looked at 7,272 individuals who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and were married at one point.

Each subject participating in the survey responded to questions annually through 1994 and every other year through 2008, the university said in a Sunday statement.

Tumin and Qian discovered that approximately 80% of all responders who had been separated ultimately divorced, usually within three years time. Another 5% attempted to reconcile, while the other 15% went 10 years without pursuing either option.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that most of those couples "tended to be racial and ethnic minorities, have low family income and education, and have young children," the university said.

"Long-term separation seems to be the low-cost, do-it-yourself alternative to divorce for many disadvantaged couples," Tumin added. "Separation may not be their first choice, but they may feel it is their best choice."

The duo will present the results of their study Monday, August 20, at 10:30am local time during the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in Denver, Colorado.

According to the ASA, the researchers discovered that 49% of all participants had left their first marriage at some point during the NLSY79 interview process, with 60% of those cases being separations.

"The average length of a first separation was three years for those who ended up divorcing, nine years for respondents who were still separated as of the most recent interview, and two years for those who reunited with their spouse," the organization said. "Reconciliation after separation is often unsuccessful, the study found -- half of the respondents that reconciled were no longer married as of 2008."

"In every measure we had, including family background, income and education, those who remain separated are more disadvantaged than those who end up divorcing," Qian added. "Those with young children may find it difficult to support themselves and their children if they divorce. Divorce may not protect them because their spouse may be unwilling or unable to provide financial support."

Religious background was not a factor in choosing divorce or separation, nor did it play a role in the likelihood that a couple would reunite after parting ways for a time, the researchers said. They also report that the number of couples choosing long-term separations is decreasing, likely due to the emergence of "no-fault" divorces.