Pennsylvania couples that meet online and get married might have a lower chance of getting a divorce than people who meet offline. Economics professors at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom and the University of Vienna in Austria report that despite a public perception that online dating fosters only short-term and casual relationships, the opposite might, in fact, be true.

The professors used a model to predict that marriages that result from online dating would last longer than marriages in which people met through other means. This model is supported by other studies. A 2013 study found that 5.9 percent of couples that met online broke up compared to 7.6 percent that met offline. Furthermore, fewer than 10 percent of couples who got married after meeting online got separated or divorced.

Dating sites use questionnaires to match compatible couples, and this could be one reason for the lower divorce rate. Another explanation could be that when people turn to online dating sites, they are ready for marriage.

Anytime a marriage ends in divorce, it can be an emotionally difficult process. People must grapple with how to divide property, handle child custody and visitation, and whether one person will pay spousal support to the other. If the divorce is particularly contentious, or if there are issues, such as domestic abuse, it may not be possible for the couple to negotiate an agreement. They may have to turn to litigation, which is a more adversarial approach than negotiations with an attorney. Individuals may not have recourse if they are unhappy with a judge’s decision. However, the judge will attempt to make a decision that is fair and in the best interests of the children.