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Divorce Records and Vital Statistics

Vital statistics are collections of numerical data pertaining to such natural acts as birth, death and other events like marriage or divorce. Vital statistics serve important purposes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) closely monitor vital statistics to identify trends in American lifestyle that can lead to policy changes. In reality, the vital statistics collected by government accurately detail rates of birth, death and disease as well as marriage and divorce rates across the country.

About Divorce Rates

The National Vital Statistics System is the oldest, most effective example of inter-governmental data sharing in the area of US Public Health. It is vital statistics that the NCHS collects and disseminates that helps the CDC and other health organizations identify threats to the population and to develop remedial policies.

Vital Statistics are collected by contractual partners with NCHS. Local and state governments use NCHS forms to update vital statistics such as births, deaths, fetal deaths, marriages and divorces in the US.

The National Survey of Family Growth was managed by NCHS and cites the collected data as pertains to “cohabitation, marriage, divorce and remarriage.” The findings were published in Series 23, Number 22, a report entitled “Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the United States” and in the national health Statistics Report entitled “First Marriages in the United States.” These reports relied upon vital statistics from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth.

In addition to the contractual partners with NCHS, the US Census Bureau also helps provide statistical information pertaining to marriage and divorce. The main difference is that the Census is survey-based information as opposed to vital statistics that are records-based. However, the collective data does offer pointed insight into marriage and divorce trends across the US.

NCHS Vital Statistics Report

Divorce and marriage rates at national and state levels are published in a report entitled the NCHS Vital Statistics Report. However, over time, the specific details of collected data have changed. In fact, most recently collection of detailed data was suspended as of January 1996 due to budgetary limitations.

Unfortunately, these limitations mean that the most recent and complete analyses of detailed marriage and divorce data were published in the Advance Report of Final Marriage Statistics, 1989-1990 and the Advance Report of Divorce Statistics, 1989-1990.

How Divorce Vital Statistics are Reported

When individuals divorce, a party that is typically the plaintiff’s attorney or the petitioner’s attorney completes a short form citing the particulars of the ended marriage. If both sides agree not to use attorneys, then the plaintiff must complete the form as a pre-requirement of the divorce.

Once the divorce is granted, the court clerk sends the completed form to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. This form is essential to analysis of US divorce and marriage trends. The Bureau of Vital Statistics divorce documentation serves as the basis for charting trends in marriage and charting the course of family life across the country.

There is some variation in the divorce forms depending upon the jurisdiction. However, all divorce forms gather certain information, including:

• Date of physical separation

• County or city where the court heard the case

• Identification of plaintiff

• Identification of party granted the divorce

• Grounds for divorce

• Number of children placed in custody of each parent or in joint custody

• Date of final decree of divorce of annulment

• Name of lawyer who files the form

Vital statistics is defined by the Free Dictionary as: “the mathematical science dealing with the collection, analysis, and interpretation of numerical data using the theory of probability, especially with methods for drawing inferences about characteristics of a population from examination of a random sample.” Statistics about divorce and marriage and remarriage help identify trends in American family lifestyle. This public data is essential for health policy, the economy and education.