FLORIDA: The Divorce Capital of the United States is Panama City, Florida? Not a chance!

So, last year, the Daily Beast came out with its statistical findings that Panama City, Florida is the Divorce Capital of the United States. How did they derive this astounding assertion? Well according to the Daily Beast article:

 To compile the list of America’s divorce capitals, The Daily Beast looked at the most recent city-centric divorce statistics in metro areas across the country. We considered two things: the percentage of the population that is divorced and the number of divorces filed

Hme…. It is interesting how on this side of the Pond, the “Divorce Capital” was determined by the divorce rate in a particular American City. But in London, the city that was first crowned a “Divorce Capital” this is not how its reputation was cultivated. Indeed, London still has the dubious reputation of being the  “Divorce Capital of the World,” and this trophy is not at all won due to it having highest divorce rate of ALL the cities in the world. Indeed, as far as the top world cities with high divorce rates, London is not even a contender. According to a recent Guinness Book of World Records report, the countries with the highest divorce rates in the world include the United States, Russia, Belarus and Cuba. The country with the top divorce rate was the Maldives. So, if anything, it is the Maldives that should be the world’s divorce capital. But it is not. It is not even a contender for this “honor.”
So how does a city or country become the divorce capital? It is not clear what all the factors are that are taken into consideration. But what is Crystal clear is that it has more to do with the number of “big money” cases and the favorable treatment the courts seem to give to “trophy wives,” and the lawyers and the judges in that particular jurisdiction than it does with the rate of divorce. A recent article on Family Lore blog explained it this way:

Britain today is an attractive place to file divorce for a number of reasons. First, London courts are relatively swift and efficient. Next, British law dictates that divorce judgments take heed of many factors that are ignored in other court systems, giving judges a high level of freedom to award compensation on a case-by-case basis rather than according to more general legal formulas. In effect, this leads many to perceive London as being quite generous in its awards to less-wealthy spouses. Moreover, many also feel that British courts are less institutionally biased against women than those in Russia or the Middle East.
A number of important court precedents further strengthen the appeal of divorcing in London––the most recent of which involves pre-nuptial agreements. In 2011, a case involving a German heiress named Katrin Radmacher resulted in a Supreme Court ruling that foreign pre-numps can be taken into account on a case-by-case basis. Another landmark ruling also established that business owners cannot use company interests to shield their assets, meaning that even money tied up in corporations is subject to division between the divorcees.
Thus––particularly for wealthy couples with large fortunes at stake and residences in multiple nations––there is strong incentive for the person seeking divorce to file the initial proceedings in the UK. Hence the aforementioned ‘divorce tourism.’
So while the title of Divorce Capital seems to be a black eye on London, in reality, it underlies a judicial efficacy that other systems lack. more

This being the case, it is arguable that the huge number of divorces in Panama City should not, without more, be enough to catapult it to the “Divorce Capital of the United States.” As was demonstrated in the London situation (which again is the benchmark and pioneer of this stat) it takes more than the number of divorce or the divorce rate to make a city the “divorce capital.”
It is unclear what the number of high income/trophy wife divorce cases in Panama City Florida that are filed annually. Perhaps there are a lot. But without more research into this issue, as well as the jurisprudential issues as well as the sheer X factor that a particular city has (and this is influenced not just by the divorce rate but also the supporting players like the divorce lawyers and judges and how they are massaging and interpreting the law to make precedent) it is totally meaningless to give those types of creds to the city. In spite of its high rate of marriage turnover, I would argue that Panama City, Florida is emphatically NOT the divorce capital of the United States.  Where is it? Where is the United States’ divorce capital? Don’t balk. But I think that could be Atlanta. And this has nothing to do with the rate of divorce – even though that is climbing fast and furious as we speak.