Coming and going – that is, getting married and getting divorced – are matters of public record. When someone divorces, a record of that action becomes what is called a vital statistic. All the jurisdictions record divorces in an office called the Bureau of Vital Statistics (or something close to that).
As part of divorce, some party (usually the plaintiff’s or petitioner’s lawyer) completes a short form that records the particulars of the marriages that ended. If there is no lawyer, the plaintiff must fill it out as a prerequisite to getting divorced. At the conclusion of each divorce case, the court clerk sends this form to the Bureau of Vital Statistics.
This form becomes the principal source of the raw information for divorce statistics and is used to chart the trends in marriage and family life in America.
The makeup of the forms vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but here is the information that is usually included:
> For the marriage: date, place and number of minor children.
> About each spouse: name, address, birth date, birth place, Social Security number, education, number of previous marriages.
> About the divorce: date of physical separation, county or city court where case heard, identification of plaintiff, identification of party granted divorce, grounds, number of children placed in custody of each parent, or in joint custody, date of final decree of divorce or annulment, name of lawyer, if the lawyer files the form.