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October 21, 2009

<img src="http://www.joplinglobeonline.com/images/zope/extra.gif" border=0>Jasper County struggles with divorce rate<font color="#ff0000"> w/ National Marriage Project info</font>

By Andy Ostmeyer

aostmeyer@joplinglobe.com

In a no-fault world peppered with billboards advertising quickie divorces, Richard and Laveda Norton are becoming an anomaly.

They’ve been married more than 51 years. They’ve been together through Richard Norton’s health problems, both as a young man and more recently, and they’ve found that adversity has strengthened their bond.

Asked if they could pinpoint reasons for the long-lived marriage, the couple identified a number of things: Their faith, for one; they both come from a long line of enduring marriages; when they were dating, they both waited for each other; and they share similar values.

“God loves us, we’re both Methodists. We’re both conservative Republicans,” Laveda Norton, 70, said with a laugh.

“It has been a perfect marriage,” said Richard Norton, 75. “It is as exciting now as the day we got married.”

Top reasons

But in this day and age, the Nortons are finding themselves increasingly the exception, rather than the rule. And the problem is worse in Jasper County than in most other parts of the country.

Census statistics released this fall indicate that Jasper County has one of the highest percentages of divorced residents in the nation. Nearly 15 percent of the people living in the county are divorced, compared with 10.7 percent nationwide. In fact, Jasper County ranked among the top 50 counties in the United States in terms of divorce rates.

Missouri divorce attorneys Alan Freed and Alisse Camazine recently released what they call a “guidebook” for the more than 20,000 couples in Missouri who get divorced every year. Their book is titled “Divorce in Missouri.”

“We have one of the biggest practices in the state in terms of divorce lawyers,” said Camazine.

Missouri is a no-fault state, she said, so divorces are easy to get.

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