WI Marriages & Divorces Report, what it means

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recently released the Wisconsin Marriages and Divorces 2009 report. The full report can be found at: http://dhs.wisconsin.gov/stats/marriages.htm.

Wisconsin’s divorce ratio for 2009 came in at 55.6%.  The previous two years were 53.6% and 51.2% for 2008 and 2007 respectively.  Since 1995, the rate has climbed 8% from 47.6% in that year.

Why the rise in the divorce ratio?  The main factor is the decline in the number of marriages in our state.  As you can see by the graph of marriages, divorces and the divorce ratio, divorces have remained relatively flat at around 16,000 annually.  However, the number of marriages annually has dropped by 14% since 1995.

The state reports that the marriage rate dropped again in 2009 to 5.3 per 1,000 from 5.6 in 2008.  This may seem like a small number, but it is actually a 5% decrease.  They report that since 1980, “the marriage rate has gradually declined…when the rate was 8.7.”  That is a 39% decline in nearly 30 years.

Why the decline in marriage rates?  In a word: cohabitation.  Young folks today are choosing cohabitation as an alternative to marriage.  It is a poor choice.  Wisconsin Family Council recently published a book I wrote to address this poor choice.  The book is called, Helping You Decide, a look at sexual relations before marriage.

If you are a pastor, I urge you to order this book and use it with couples who come to you to be married.  The book is meant to be used to open up the discussion and provide a framework to guide the couple to follow God’s Word.  It is a very short, easy read for the couple.  I include discussion questions for them and cover cohabitation, sex before marriage, virginity and purity.  You can order copies at www.wifamilyaction.org/helpingyoudecide.

Wisconsin Family Council has been working with pastors in Milwaukee and Racine to form Community Marriage Agreements and implement proven reforms that can lower the divorce ratio, lower cohabitation and increase marriages rates.  The solution to the problems of divorce, cohabitation and falling marriage rates lie in God’s Word, his servants and their collective effort through the church.  This is why we are passionate about supporting pastors and churches seeking to build marriage ministries.  It is the only way to turn these trends around.

– Eric Skelton, WFC Director of Marriage & Family Ministry

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