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Where is the love? Not in Norfolk, magazine says

If Virginia really is for lovers, then there must be some downside.

Sure enough, the glossy magazine Men's Health found it. Last month, the magazine rated 100 U.S. cities for happily and unhappily married couples.

Checking in at a glum 98 - behind Tampa, Fla., Miami, and Boise, Idaho - is Norfolk.

"Who did we beat?" asked Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer, who presides over divorce filings in civil court. "We had to beat Vegas."

No. Sin City in Nevada is 93.

"We didn't even beat Vegas?"

What’s with Norfolk? Is it the military life? Coal dust? The closing of Waterside?

The magazine says its rankings are based on divorce statistics, so the hub of Hampton Roads may be getting an unfair rap.

In Virginia, a couple can file for divorce in any jurisdiction. Many family lawyers say they choose Norfolk for its streamlined process, flexible schedules and patient legal clerks.

About three-quarters of recent divorces handled by the Norfolk office come from couples living outside the city, Schaefer said. One Northern Virginia attorney electronically files every civil split with them, he said.

Norfolk courts handle about 12 percent of the divorces in the state, the most per capita in Virginia, according to state statistics. The court completed 7,100 divorces in 2012, behind only much more populous Fairfax County.

Marriage looks better in the Tidewater suburbs, according to the magazine.

Chesapeake (27) and Virginia Beach (51) fared better than their urban neighbor. But those family-friendly communities were topped by big cities San Francisco (21), Washington (24) and Philadelphia (3). The top spot went to Madison, Wis., home to the University of Wisconsin and apparently a bunch of devoted spouses.

Cheer up, happy Norfolk couples. Things are supposed to be worse in Albuquerque, N.M., and Charleston, W.Va.

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