"Marriage-friendly" therapist William Doherty of the University of Minnesota has published new survey results suggesting that a surprising number of divorcing couples are interested in reconciliation.
In collaboration with Hennepin County District Court Judge Bruce Peterson, Doherty surveyed 2,500 couples with children whose divorces were pending but not finalized. After taking court-ordered parenting classes, one in four said they believed their marriages could be saved through hard work. For one in 10 couples, both divorcing spouses expressed interest in reconciliation counseling. For one in three couples, only one spouse expressed interest, according to Doherty's study, which was published in the journal Family Court Review.
A U of M press release called this "the first time data has been gathered on divorcing parents' interest in reconciliation." Doherty's research and advocacy generally tilts in favor of preserving marriages. His last mention in this blog was regarding a study that suggested cohabitation, in leiu of marriage, presented risks to children because it increased the likelihood of parents splitting up. Doherty concluded:

"In the 1960s, many family court professionals viewed themselves as having a responsibility to help couples reconcile if that was possible, or have a constructive divorce if reconciliation was not possible. This reconciliation-first approach did not survive the cultural changes of the 1970s. Instead divorce practitioners generally assume the inevitability of divorce once people begin the legal process ... While many who enter the divorce process may have made a final decision to end their marriages, those who are uncertain or are open to reconciliation deserve more attention from professionals than they receive currently."
Peterson is in the Fourth Judicial District's criminal and civil division, but previously was a presiding family court judge. The number of divorcing couples who seemed amicable during court proceedings led him to wonder if more reconciliations could be possible, according to the U of M release.
The study comes at an intriguing time. Divorce numbers dipped in recent years, as stressed-out couples tried to weather the recession. Some predicted a resurgence in the American divorce rate as the economy stabilized, but new American Community Survey data from 2010 suggests that didn't happen.
The data from the U.S. Census survey showed a rate of 9.8 divorces per 1,000 women in the U.S. in 2010. The Minnesota rate was 8.1. The rates were actually higher -- at 10.5 and 9.3, respectively -- in 2008 when families supposedly stuck together for financial survival. Minnesota's 2010 divorce rate was sixth lowest in the nation.


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