The Divorce Myth in Law Enforcement

There is a lot of misinformation out about the divorce Rate among law enforcement couples. Let’s clear that up!

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Let’s talk about the biggest myth out there in law enforcement families. The divorce myth. It’s the idea that there is a higher rate of divorce among law enforcement officers than any other profession. 

Law Enforcement and Divorce

One reason I started Code4Couples® was because my husband and I were seeing marriages split up.  I thought there must be an underlying reason why this happens in the law enforcement community. I was also struggling in my relationship with dealing with emotions and I hit a wall with support. As a counselor and therapist, I figured out that I was missing something, and I wanted to help officers and spouses thrive in this field.

One of the first things I wanted to research was the divorce rates among first responders to see how much of the myth was true. What I read was tough information to absorb.  I found information more about what people thought was going on, but no evidence to back up those thoughts. It irritated me because I was reading all kinds of things such as surveys that stated the divorce rate among law enforcement officers was as high as 75%! I was reading that law enforcement was 2nd in the nation for being among the highest rates of divorce and double the rate of any other professions. I was seeing averages of all sorts of things including higher divorce rate, alcoholism, Domestic Violence, suicide, and PTSD. I wanted to know where these facts came from and the actual truth. My husband always says there are three sides to every story, and I tried to figure out the real facts.

Myth-busting the Divorce Rate in Law Enforcement

I’m sure you have read that the divorce rate among officer police is at 75%. It is crap! Statistics were coming from studies that were done in the 1960s and 1970s. They were also based on a limited geographical region. You can’t do a study with just one department. These studies were done in a “bubble” meaning they were isolated studies with no comparisons (i.e. national averages).

I am here to tell you that the divorce rate for law enforcement is a myth. The most recent article I found was an article written by Jeff Shannon in 2010.  He is a law enforcement officer and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. This article should have been shared countless times instead of facts from the 70s!

Our marriages aren’t doomed if we are in law enforcement.

Here are the facts.

The overall divorce rate is going down!

It began falling in the ’90s and continued to trend downward. In 1992 there were 4.8 divorces per 1000 and by 2006, the number had dropped to 3.6.

We are on a downward trend for a couple of reasons.

One reason cited said many people are waiting to get married. They are waiting until they are older, which by the way your brain doesn’t stop developing until you’re 25 years old. People are waiting longer to get married which means they are more mature and more set in a full developmental state. Most of the time, they are finished with their education, establishing a financial foundation, and starting new professions. The other reason is more people are cohabitating and not getting married. They are either living together and breaking up before marriage or choosing to live together forever without getting married.

Let’s take a look at a study from 2010 called “A comparison of law enforcement divorce rates with those of other occupations” written by Michael Aamodt and Shawn McCoy.  This article is not incredibly old. There are few people talking about it because sources would rather you believe that your marriage is doomed simply because you are married to a law enforcement officer.  The study shows statistics for all first responders, but I am only pulling the ones that apply to law enforcement.

It looked at a total of 449 occupations. In the large category of law enforcement (which included occupations within the law enforcement field) divorce and separations were 2% lower than the national average.

We’ve been lied to, and this continues to get perpetuated.

It’s our job to let the community know that the divorce myth is just that. A myth!

I do not like that we are trying to scare people into change with misguided information.  There shouldn’t be a tactic to scare people into making a choice or change and I feel like that is what the divorce myth is doing.

There are speakers out there who present the false divorce rate to scare people so they will attend a conference. I want you to listen to me because you want to make your relationship stronger or want to know what is going on underneath, not because you are threatened with divorce.

Categories of Law Enforcement broken down 

When the categories of Law Enforcement are broken down, there are some areas of law enforcement that had a greater chance of divorce. Three of them that were mentioned were animal control officers, fish and game wardens, and parking enforcement officers. They all had a higher rate than the national average.

What was eye-opening to me as I looked at this study a little further, is my husband and I are more likely to get divorced because of MY occupation than his. Therapists and counselors have a higher rate of divorce than law enforcement.

Here’s the deal. Stop worrying about the divorce rate.

Spread the word, tell people it’s wrong, and arm them with facts.

Let them know about the study and that the rate is actually 2% lower than the national average.

Facts are empowering. Let them empower you and those around you.

Spillover Will Impact Your Relationship

Law Enforcement careers do impact the relationship based upon research studies. If you don’t accept the fact that the career will impact your relationship, you may wind up a statistic. Most of us (spouses) know and understand what officers and first responders endure daily. As spouses, we provide them with room to move through the hardships and we accommodate them, but there is spillover in the relationship.

We need to be more concerned about having amazing relationships that are connected. Relationships with intimacy and emotion. We need to be more concerned about spillover than the divorce rate. We need to know that we can’t persevere through this alone and that we CAN come out of this thriving. We need to be able to support each other because we know that in supporting each other, it’s the greatest resilience for our officers and first responders.

Stop fearing the divorce rate. It is a myth. Let us work on the quality of our relationships and work as a couple and community to reduce the impact of spillover. 

Keep it Code 4!

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The Divorce Myth in Law Enforcement

There is a lot of misinformation out about the divorce Rate among law enforcement couples. Let’s clear that up!

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Podcasts