- Associated Press - Saturday, November 19, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas ranks fourth nationally in its rate of divorce and the state’s divorce rate climbed between 2014 and 2015 while the national rate declined, according to new data.

Data from Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research indicates Arkansas’ divorce rate climbed from 22.3 divorces per 1,000 married women in 2014 to 25.3 in 2015, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/2g65Yj7 ). The national rate dropped from 17.6 to 16.9, the lowest rate in at least 40 years. Arkansas had the nation’s seventh-highest divorce rate in 2014.

Family law attorneys say more people marry younger in Arkansas than in other states and couples often have clashing marital expectations, contributing to divorces. In addition, attorneys say they’re seeing a higher number of divorces among couples who have been married 30 years or longer.

The impact of divorce stretches beyond the couples themselves. Marriage dissolutions can also harm the emotional well-being of children, especially if the youths are thrust in the middle of long-running disputes, attorneys said.

“What you’ll find if you look at the studies is that children can handle their parents getting divorced, OK, but what screws kids up is parents who constantly are acrimonious toward each other and fight and fight and fight,” said Jack Wagoner III, an attorney who has handled divorce cases for more than 20 years. “That’s been shown to have a terrible impact on kids.”

Attorney Rebecca Denison, who has handled divorce cases for 27 years, said the specific causes - money issues, infidelity or mismatched personalities - haven’t changed, but modern dynamics, like the internet, are increasing the likelihood of those issues actually fracturing a marriage.

Denison said she’s noticed a much higher number of 30-year-plus marriages being terminated, as is the case nationally. Those cases can often center on feelings of “emptiness” that arise after grown children move out of their parents’ homes, she said.

“Then they are alone, and (sometimes) they have not built a basis for their marriage that is more than the kids,” Denison said.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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