Countries With the Highest Divorce Rates

Broken Frame With Wedding Photo Signifying Divorce

Surprisingly, the world’s highest divorce rates aren’t found in the U.S. According to the UN’s Demographics and Social Statistics Division which has records of the divorce rate for every country, the country with the highest ratio of divorces is Belgium, with a whopping 71% of marriage to divorce ratio.

Looking at the statistics, it’s clear  that certain nationalities are more liberal when it comes to divorce. The social acceptance of divorce – including various religious and cultural conventions – in a nation may in part contribute to this, as indeed may the ease and expense with which a divorce may be carried out. While nations such as Jamaica, Colombia and Mexico all had comparatively low levels of divorce, some ostensibly traditional nations reported surprisingly high rates of divorce.

Take a look at the nations below to see where significantly more couples are getting divorced than staying married.

10. USA: 53%

This may come as a surprise to some, but the United States is only the tenth highest on the list of countries with the highest divorce rate. The U.S., which has some of the best kept data when it comes to marriages and divorces, is facing a steady decline in marriages according to the Census Bureau.

Not only are the number of marriages per year shrinking, but people are waiting longer to marry, and there has been an increase in the number of divorces in the United States. In fact, a divorce happens every one in six seconds, with a higher trend in the South and Midwest as opposed to the Northeast.

Nevada, Oklahoma and  Arkansas are some of the states boasting the highest divorce rates, while New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts have some of the lowest divorce rates in the United States.

9. France: 55%

France, Paris, the Eiffle Tower… they all seem to allude to romance and couples, however it’s only an illusion as France appears as the ninth country on our list.

An argument can be made that France has such high divorce rates due to their openness to all things, however the high proportion of marriages that end in divorce makes one wonder about the well-being and happiness of the people, so much so, that in 2012 the French government thought it was worth being concerned about, and introduced a new initiative aimed at lowering the divorce rate in the country.

8. Cuba: 56%

Cuba has the highest divorce rate among all countries in Latin America. It’s so high that Pope John Paul II, during his 1998 visit to Cuba, criticized the high number of divorces there.

There are several reasons for why Cuba has such a high divorce rate. The first has to do with the island’s terrible housing shortage as well as high poverty which forces married couples to live with their in-laws and other relatives. As you can imagine, having to live with so many other people can cause a strain on even the best of marriages. The poor economic conditions don’t help either.

Cuba’s laissez-faire approach to divorce also contributes to its high divorce rate. It’s cheap and effortless, costing a couple about the equivalent of four U.S. dollars and twenty minutes of time. Because of the poverty, there are few possessions to divide, making divorce a truly simple process.

7. Estonia: 58%

Estonia averages nearly six in ten marriages ending in divorce. The nation is a former satellite state of the Soviet Union which has had legalised divorce for a long time, and as such it’s more or less accepted by society. As with Cuba, however, a newer trend showing a dramatic decrease in marriage levels has been the more significant talking point in the country. This trend – more and more common in countries with a high divorce rate – may be attributed to the high levels of divorce creating a society disillusioned with marriage. It should be pointed out that unlike several other nations, Estonia does not offer any tax breaks to married couples, only those cohabiting, meaning that there is no legal or logistical incentive for couples to marry.

6. Luxembourg: 60%

One of the smallest nations in Europe, Luxembourg lies sandwiched between Belgium, Germany and France, and has a population of just over half a million people.

Luxembourg sees many travellers, expats and others pass through the country. Grounds for divorce in the country require that both parties are above the age of 21 and that they have been married for at least two years, although legal separations and annulments are also possible. As with other nations, the marriage rate in Luxembourg is falling, while those most likely to divorce in the country are between 40 and 49 years of age.

5. Spain: 61%

At first glance it may be surprising to see Spain on this list since it’s historically been known for its close ties to the Catholic Church. However, the country has been moving away from its religious heritage – in 2005, new divorce legislation, designed to make divorce by mutual consent quicker and easier, was approved.

Under the legislation (known as divorcio directo), a couple wishing to divorce must have been married for a minimum of three months (less if there’s domestic violence), neither party needs to present any grounds for divorce and there’s no minimum period of separation required beforehand

The financial troubles the country has suffered in recent years have also been cited as another reason for marriages in the country breaking down.

4. Czech Republic: 66%

The central European nation of the Czech Republic has one of the highest divorce rates in the world, and at one time the highest in Europe. Around 11% of all men and 13% of women in the country are divorced and, as such, the practice is destigmatised. Grounds for divorce in the country are fairly straightforward: a fundamental breakdown of relations between spouses must be proven for the courts to dissolve a marriage. In terms of the custody rights of divorced parents in the Czech Republic, however, the practices are arguably worrying: Well over 90% of women in the country are granted full custody of their children in the aftermath of a divorce and the arguments of rights groups for fathers in these situations remain largely ignored.

3. Hungary: 67%

For a long time now Hungary has had an enormously high level of marriages ending in divorce. Hungarian courts grant a divorce either by mutual consent or if proof is given that the marriage has irrevocably broken down. Marriage rates are dropping here, and it has been noted by the OECD that the numbers of cohabiting unmarried couples remain low. This suggests that many who wish to live together may marry before doing so, only to later realise that romantic bliss has eluded them. Just under 10% of all Hungarian men are divorced, while 12.4% of women in the nation have been previously married.

2. Portugal: 68%

Another unusual entry on our list, Portugal, like neighbouring Spain, is known for its traditionally Catholic heritage. However, the nation is not as tied to this background as you may think as divorce has been permitted in the country for over a century. When first introduced, divorce levels were low, numbering only a few hundred every year, but the figures have skyrocketed  of late. At the same time, however, the marriage rates in the country remain high according to the OECD, suggesting that couples in Portugal remain firmly attached to the institution of marriage.

1. Belgium: 71%

A first glance, Belgium appears an example of European modernity: a nation with a rich history and splendid architecture which is the centre of power for the European Union and Parliament. Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll realise that all is not well in the nation so famous for its chocolate. Politically, Belgium is fiercely divided between the French speaking south, which includes the capital Brussels, and the Flemish speaking north, close to Holland. The nation is so divided that successive elections have resulted in collapsed governments with Belgium going a record 535 days without a government  as a result. Against this backdrop divorce levels have been climbing, with the decline of the Church cited as a key factor in these figures. Around 32,000 Belgians sign divorce papers every year. Belgian courts will grant a divorce on the grounds of adultery, excesses, physical or mental cruelty and de facto separation. Only about a third of marriages in Belgium actually last, which is a startling fact that undeniably calls the integrity of the ’til-death-do-us-part institution (in Belgium, at least) into question.


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One thought on “Countries With the Highest Divorce Rates”

  1. Ellen Banks says:

    The trend in divorce rates is very interesting. I had no idea that in the United States there is a divorce rate of 53%. It will be interesting to see how these rates change over time.

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