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Study suggests divorce may be socially "contagious"

Many people may be surprised to learn about another factor that may increase the risk of divorce: the number of divorced people that an individual knows.
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    January 24, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Many external factors can influence the success of a marriage, from economic stresses to family issues. Still, many people in Albuquerque, New Mexico, may be surprised to learn about another factor that may increase the risk of divorce: the number of divorced people that an individual knows. A long-term study has suggested that this may be the case, which means that, with divorce more common today than it used to be, many New Mexico couples could be at risk of divorcing in the future.

Divorce as a social epidemic

The study, as described in a Pew Research article, made use of data from the Framingham Heart Study, which has followed more than 5,000 people in one Massachusetts community for more than five decades. People in the study were surveyed every few years, and in addition to answering questions about their health, they would identify friends and family members who also were in the study.

The collection of information on social relationships allowed researchers from Brown University to analyze interviews conducted between 1971 and 2001 and look for divorce-related patterns. Some findings were that:
- People with a divorced friend or family member had a 16 percent chance of getting divorced.
- This figure represented a 75 percent increase over an average person's chance of getting divorced.
- People with a divorced friend of a friend saw their chances of getting divorced increase by 33 percent, to an overall chance of 12 percent.
- People who knew a person three degrees removed who divorced did not experience a greater chance of divorce.

The researchers do not claim that these results would apply to the rest of the country, and of course, there were certainly other factors that may have influenced these divorces. Still, the study suggests an interesting explanation for rising divorce rates. The possibility that divorce is "contagious" and likely to occur under certain circumstances makes it worthwhile for couples in New Mexico to understand alternatives to divorce as well as procedures for filing.

Options for separation in New Mexico

New Mexico couples considering separating have a few options to consider before filing a petition for divorce. Measures like counselling can help couples improve communication and their overall relationship, but when reconciliation is not likely, spouses also have the option of legally separating.

According to the website of the State Bar of New Mexico, couples who are permanently living apart can file for legal separation. During legal separation, issues that would be dealt with during a divorce settlement, including division of assets and arrangements regarding any children, are legally resolved. Besides physically living apart, couples do not have to provide grounds for a legal separation. However, people who are legally separated cannot remarry.

Couples who wish to remarry or for other reasons wish to dissolve the marriage can submit a petition for divorce with the grounds for divorce and the specification of whether the divorce is no-fault or at-fault. Once both couples have provided all of the appropriate paperwork, they can begin working on a settlement or preparing to take the issue to court.

During a difficult time like a divorce, making the best long-term decisions, handling all the paperwork correctly and arriving at an agreement that will be beneficial can be difficult. This is why anyone who is considering divorcing can benefit from speaking with an attorney for advice early in the process.

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