1. People & Relationships

Divorcing In Today's Economy

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Some experts say if your marriage is shaky, a downturn in the economy will make it more likely that you will divorce. Others say that a bad economy can be good for your marriage.

"This economy is definitely creating challenges that one doesn’t see in a more stable financial situation," says Suzy Brown, midlife divorce recovery expert and author of Radical Recovery: Transforming the Despair of Your Divorce Into An Unexpected Good says.

Surveys of attendees at one of her recent Midlife Divorce Recovery Boot Camps revealed that a 52-year-old woman was living in her car. Another was temporarily in the Super Six Motel. Another attendee and her ex-husband were still living in the same house because they have not been able to sell their house, and they could not afford two mortgages.

Researchers have tried to figure out the correlation between the economy and divorce, and they often come up with differing conclusions. Whether a downturn in the economy increases or decreases the likelihood of individuals divorcing depends on many factors.

Money issues in individual families have always been high on the list of causes of divorce. However, when the financial stability of the whole world plummets, and everyone is feeling the pinch of tough economic times, couples either:

  1. Decide to try to weather the troubles in their marriage and make extra efforts to stay together, or

  2. Realize that their personal situation is getting worse along with the deepening financial crisis and head straight for the divorce attorney’s office.

This challenging economy will hopefully make borderline couples give their relationship another try before divorcing. They may seek counseling from professionals or attend couples retreats sponsored by a religious community to develop a new intimacy and stronger bonds in their marriage.

A clear, hard look at finances may cause a couple to establish new commitment to the marriage and can get them on their way to a more intimate partnership.

However, if divorce is inevitable and the relationship irretrievable, the decision to divorce can be accelerated by the extra stress of this financial climate. Those who decide to divorce should keep in mind that the divorce process in itself can be expensive.

Two houses demand more to maintain than one. Consulting and attorneys fees add up. Physical illness and emotional distress often show up during divorce, which can be costly. Providing for children, even those in joint custody, can create additional expenses.

In some cases, the decision to divorce depends on where a couple is in the process and what kind of advice they are getting. An attorney in West Palm Beach Florida posted the following on a recent blog:

"If you are the major bread-winner of your family, now is a good time to get a divorce. You will be able to buy your spouse out of the marital home for a bargain basement price. That is, if you can get financing. As far as division of marital assets and debts is concerned, if your retirement plan took a recent hit on Wall Street, that is that much less you will need to split with your spouse.

"If your spouse is irresponsible with money, a shopaholic, or high maintenance, now is the time to get rid of him/her. If your job is at risk, or bonuses are not forthcoming, your alimony obligation may also be lower. Make it un-modifiable or a lump sum in the negotiations! Child support may be lower too, if your passive investment income is down."

The blog went on to say, "If you are the dependent spouse, a divorce may be just the thing to protect your good credit! You may need it to buy a condo or townhouse when the credit freeze eases. As to credit card debt, try to pay at least the minimums each month for the same reason."

The blog continued, "So if you are thinking about divorce, there are many favorable economic reasons to start divorce proceedings in this bad economy."

Couples should be wary of advice that weighs heavily on one side of the scale or another, or seeks to punish one party at the expense of children or the ex-spouse. Beware of advisors who are more in the business of shoring up their own bottom line rather than crafting a divorce settlement that is as fair as possible for both parties. Settlements that are unfairly skewed one way or another almost always cause problems down the road.

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