Divorce Statistics for North Carolina

man and woman in fight

Whether a couple has invested months, years, or decades in a marriage, the moment when it seems as if the union is coming to an end can be extremely frightening and difficult to face. If you believe that your marriage is ultimately heading for divorce, then understanding how many marriages end in divorce may be helpful to put your own situation in a broader context.

Charles R. Ullman & Associates is sharing the most recent marriage and divorce statistics for North Carolina and the United States to show that you are not alone in facing this difficult transition in your life. Many thousands of people get divorced each year and then build happier, more satisfying lives. We help many clients in the Raleigh area close a difficult chapter and move forward with their lives.

Attorney Charles Ullman focuses his legal practice exclusively on family law matters and helping people who are facing the many issues involved in separating and ending a marriage. He has more than two decades of experience helping people of all ages work through the legal and financial issues that must be addressed during a divorce. He is recognized by the North Carolina State Bar as a Board-Certified Specialist in Family Law, indicating that he has received additional training in this area of law.

Divorce Statistics on How Many Marriages End in Divorce

Marriage and divorce statistics published by North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics and the CDC’s National Vital Statistics Center indicate:

  • 2,065,905 marriages took place in the United States in 2022.
  • 673,989 divorces and annulments were finalized in the U.S. in 2022, based on partial data from 45 states.
  • 75,657 marriages took place in North Carolina in 2022.
  • 3.2 divorces took place in North Carolina per 1,000 inhabitants in 2021.
  • May was the month in 2019 when the most divorces occurred in North Carolina—a total of 3,194. February had the fewest divorces with 2,437.
  • 2,706 divorces took place in Wake County, which includes Raleigh, Cary, Knightdale, Holly Springs, Apex, Wake Forest and the surrounding areas in 2019.

Marriages, Divorces Down in North Carolina

  • The divorce rates in North Carolina and nationally have been trending downward for several decades. While rates vary from state to state, a lower divorce rate means longer marriages. People have altered their approach to the institution of marriage. Many young people are waiting longer to get married. A majority of Americans find co-habitation acceptable, and some couples choose to live together without getting married, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
  • The U.S. divorce rates increased during the 1970s and early 80s and peaked nationally at 5.3 divorces per thousand people in 1981. The rate fell to 4.7 by 1990 and has continued falling since then to 2.7 in 2019, the most recent year of data.
  • At 3.1 divorces per thousand people, North Carolina’s rate of divorce was higher than the national rate of 2.7 per thousand population in 2019, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But the rate was lower than in previous decades.

In the year 2000, the divorce rate in North Carolina was 5.1 divorces per thousand people and has been falling since then.

planning ahead of a separation

The number of Americans getting married and getting divorced dropped during the pandemic with many courts and government offices closed for a period of time and people out of work. The pandemic forced many people including unhappy spouses to postpone their plans for practical reasons including economic uncertainty.

Hundreds of pending divorce and custody cases in North Carolina were put on hold because courts were operating with limited staff for a period of time. Separation agreements specifying custody and support arrangements are harder to finalize when people are out of work or have uncertain work schedules and children are out of school due to the pandemic. It will not be surprising to see an upsurge in divorce filings after the pandemic, due in part to the stress of the lengthy quarantines and related financial issues.

Statistics of Marriages that End in Divorce

The conventional wisdom is that about half of all marriages end in divorce. But that statistic can be misleading. It masks a lot of variation in divorce by age group.

Approximately 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary, whereas only about 65 percent of marriages that began in the 1970s or 1980s did so. Divorce rates for couples married in the 2000s are lower still.

Kalman Heller, Ph.D., a retired psychologist, has some insight that may prove helpful in explaining what percentage of marriages end in divorce.

Divorce rates are cumulative statistics,” Heller says. “They don’t occur at a single moment in time but add up over the years of marriage and do so at different rates.”

In other words, comparing the number of marriages in a year to the number of divorces in a year is misleading, Heller says. He concludes that:

  • About 10 percent of marriages end in divorce in the first five years.
  • An additional 10 percent of couples get divorced by the 10th year.
  • Half of all divorces occur within the first 10 years of marriage.

Much of the reduction in divorce statistics have been attributed to young people waiting until they are older to marry, as compared to couples in the 1970s, who typically got married in their late teens or early 20s.

elder couple in a conflict - gray divorce

An emerging trend in recent decades is the separation and divorce of older couples after long marriages. The trend in grey divorce has become more pronounced with the rate of people ages 50 and older getting divorced more than doubling since 1990, according to the Pew Research Center. Among people age 65 and older, the rate of divorce has tripled since 1990, reaching six people per thousand married persons, the research indicates. The increasing rate is linked partly to the aging of Baby Boomers who now make up most of this age group.

Many older divorcees seek divorce to gain independence and focus on their own interests for the remaining years of their lives. Sometimes, gray divorce is caused by the loss of a job, financial stress, the departure of the last child from the family, a health crisis, or spouses’ incompatible spending habits.

How Many Separations End in Divorce

North Carolina law requires divorcing couples to live separate and apart for a year to be eligible for a divorce. For many people, that separation period gives them a perspective on their relationship.

It’s estimated that nearly 80 percent of married couples that separate get divorced.

For people who wonder how many separations end in divorce, research has shown that:

  • 79 percent of couples who separate eventually get divorced
  • 4 years is the average length of a first separation
  • About 7 percent of separations last 10 years or longer
  • 2 years is the average length of separation for those few couples who reunite.

You Are Not Alone When Facing Separation and Divorce

As the above statistics show, hundreds of thousands of people across the United States go through the divorce process each year and begin new chapters in their lives. While divorce is common, each divorce is emotional and stressful to the individuals involved. Divorce isn’t easy even if you are the one initiating the divorce. Having a knowledgeable and caring Raleigh divorce attorney to guide you through the process of separation and divorce and advocate for your interests can make all the difference in the outcome.

The Raleigh divorce attorneys at Charles R. Ullman & Associates treat clients with compassion and individual attention, not like statistics. We are a small law firm that focuses on divorce and family law matters. We are located in a historic house in downtown Raleigh. We are ready to provide personalized legal representation to help you if you have decided to end your marriage and begin a new chapter in your life.

If you reside in Raleigh, Cary, or elsewhere in Wake County and are facing the end of a marriage, our attorney can help you consider all the ramifications of divorce and help you make sound, forward-looking decisions for your future.

Contact Charles R. Ullman & Associates today to schedule an appointment to discuss the appropriate steps or use our online contact form.


Charles Ullman & Associates provides you respected, experienced and knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys. You can trust us to help you through the legal process efficiently and effectively so you can transition to the next phase of your life. Our community involvement reaches beyond charitable support of important causes. We launched our own movement in Fraternities4Family and provide scholarships to able students in need.