The Cost of the Risk of Material Loss in Divorce
Marriage is often discouraged in the Manopshere, and a single male, choosing whether I want to marry or stay an eternal bachelor is something important. Now, there’re a lot of reasons provided for why to avoid marriage, but the risk and consequences of divorce are easily the most convincing argument. So, I’m going to create a series on the economics of marriage.
This first post will be the economic cost of the risk of divorce for the average bachelor considering marriage.
At another time, I will attempt an economic analysis of the immaterial losses of divorce and the benefits of marriage. Then I will combine it all together in a cost benefit analysis.
What are the odds of divorce?
The “50% of marriages end in divorce” statistic is thrown out a lot, but this number includes those with multiple marriages and divorces, which skews the number higher than for people considering their first marriage, among other problems.
So, according to the US Census Bureau, for men, only about 60% of men reach their 25th anniversary for their first marriage (p. 11), which means about 40% of men did not.
Now, the data is by age cohort, and those married earlier had a greater chance of reaching any particular marriage anniversary milestone. For example, those married in 1975-79 had a 54.4% chance of reaching 25th anniversary, while those in the married in 1960-65 had a 66.9% of reaching this milestone. But, those married in 1975-79 had the worst chances of attaining any particular marriage milestone; they were peak divorce you might say. Since then, younger marriage cohorts have been more likely to reach milestones.
Meanwhile, in Canada, Statistics Canada has it that about 40% of first marriages will end in divorce.
So, we will estimate there is a 40% chance that a male entering their first marriage will divorce.
(Remember, the chances of marriage ending in divorce can vary depending on a wide range of variables, which I am not going to calculate at this time, but I might go into them in-depth in the future.)
How much does the divorce process cost?
The cost of the actual divorce process varies considerably, depending on a wide range of variables. A simple divorce will run about $1000, while a contested divorce can run from about $8,000-$133,000.
According to this, the median cost for mediation is $5,000, while the average contested divorce costs about $20,000.
So, we’ll say your divorce process will be about $20,000.
(Here’s a calculator if you’d like to play around).
What about Spousal/Child Support?
Your chances of paying spousal support depend on the amount of child support already paid and your income. There’s a ton of laws on this, so I’ll just use this calculator to calculate this.
The average Canadian household income is: $74,700
Two-earners without children: $79,700
Two-earners with children: $85,600
One-earner without children: $58,100
One-earner with children: $60,900
The average length of marriage is 14.5 years, with the average age of divorce for men being 44 and for women, 41.
So, putting the average divorce and income in the calculator we can get the average cost of support (both child and spousal) payments come divorce (in Ontario):
For your own income and planned family situation input the number in the calculator.
So, the average male will have to pay about $149,436 in support if sole provider, $73,458 in support if primary provider, and $0 in support if equal provider. (The cost of child support is there for illustrative purposes, but that would be the cost of having a child, not marriage and divorce.)
One interesting thing to notice: if you’re the sole breadwinner, your likely monthly payments can actually decrease as mandated child support payments replace spousal support payments. I would not bank too much on this, as it’s likely just a quirk in Canadian law or the calculator and may not apply broadly.
What about a Settlement?
In Canada, “the spouse with the higher net family property is required by law to pay his” spouse “half of the difference between the two spouses’ net family properties.” Net family properties being current assets minus both liabilities and assets at marriage.
In the US, there are two systems, community property and equitable distribution, depending on the state with variations in how they are distributed. The former divides assets gained during the marriage equally, but leaves property attained before marriage alone. Equitable distribution distributes property equitably (not necessarily equally).
In general, we can say that the property you acquired during the marriage will be split more or less in half. If the wife was the primary housekeeper, while the husband was the primary breadwinner, then the difference will be the wife’s payments for continued support of the house. If they both shared provider status roughly equally, then an equal distribution of marital resources should occur.
There does not seem to be much economic cost to the average husband at the point of settlement in Canada, unless he sunk significant sums into the marital home prior to marriage and the wife did not match these sums after entering the marriage.
In the US, one could economically lose if the equitable distribution was not necessarily equal, or by quirks of local law, but for the average divorce, these would not present much of a cost. There might be extreme cases in both systems where quirks or abuses of the law could lead to unequal distribution either way, but
Other Cost Considerations
This is not to say that this will not increase economic hardship. Having to pay the expenses for two dwellings will, by itself, greatly increase economic hardship on both ex-spouses. For the ex-husband specifically though, the extra cost of two dwellings would be accounted for in the spousal/child support payments taken from his income.
It is possible a divorce could affect a male’s job performance, and thus his earnings, creating additional economic cost, but this would be outside my ability to remotely calculate.
The Total Material Cost of Divorce Risk for the Man Considering Marriage
Costs of Divorce Risk = Risk of Divorce * (Cost of divorce process + cost of support)
Average Male Single Earner
40%*(20,000 + 149,436 ) = $67774.40
Average Male Primary Provider
40%*(20,000 + 73,458) = $37383.2
Equal Male and Female Provision
40%*(20,000 ) = $8,000
For the average male who’s considering marriage and planning to be the sole breadwinner of the family, the material cost of the risk of divorce would be just over a full year’s worth of pay. For the average male who plans to be the primary but not sole breadwinner, it would be somewhat less than a full year’s pay. For the average male who plans a marriage where both partners earn equally, it would be a few months’ worth of pay.
So, if you plan on marrying and being the sole or primary breadwinner, you would have to ask yourself if you would pay roughly a year’s salary to be married.
* This analysis will be done for Canada. Canada’s divorce laws are generally nationally coherent, with federal laws and. The US’ divorce laws differ widely between states, so I can’t really calculate for the US. On the other hand, for the majority of men, the analysis shouldn’t vary too significantly.