Divorce attorneys see both men and women initiating divorce actions. Sometimes the husband and wife even want to coordinate and file at the same time. Practically speaking, in the eyes of the court, it doesn't matter which party files the Petition for Divorce first. It may make a difference to the parties involved, however, and there are trends showing which spouse is more likely to initiate the action.
A recent Stanford University study found that women are much more likely than men to initiate a divorce. Women Initiate Divorces More Than Men, But Not Breakups, Study Suggests, by Brittany Wong, The Huffington Post, August 24, 2015. The study followed adults with opposite sex partners for six years, and analyzed their breakup statistics. Interestingly, while women were found to have initiated 69% of divorces, the initiation of breakups between non-married couples was nearly equal between the genders. The study's author found this to be an interesting phenomenon "because social scientists previously argued that women were more likely to initiate divorce simple because they were more sensitive to relationship difficulties." This is not the case, however, since women are not the primary initiators in non-marital breakups.
There could be several reasons for this disconnect. Marriage is a significant commitment to another person and women may be less likely to remain committed in such a permanent way to a person with whom they are no longer happy. For unmarried women in relationships, the commitment may not seem as significant and, thus, they may not feel the need to remove themselves from the relationship. In addition, if a woman feels she could be happier with someone else, getting divorced, rather than having an affair, may be an easier pill to swallow. An unmarried woman in a relationship may not see an affair as that significant without the marital vows; thus, cheating on a boyfriend, rather than breaking up with him, may be the chosen solution.