Tough economy slows divorce rate

By Heather Sullivan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The divorce rate is down right now due to the bad economy. Many couples simply can't afford to split up. Some attorneys say that means we'll see a divorce boom when the economy improves.

There are many issues that lead couples to divorce. Financial pressures are often a major factor. But in this case, the recession and slumping housing market are causing the divorce rate to go down.

Explained attorney Brian Jones with Barnes & Diehl, PC, "A lot of people are living together even though they want to divorce. So we've got couples who are in the same house in different bedrooms, waiting for the market to come back so they can sell the house."

Bad economies don't always mean decreases in divorce. Divorces rose during the stagflation of the mid-70's and during the recession of the early '80s. But this time, said attorney Michael Ewing with Batzli, Wood & Stiles, PC, "There's also a certain number of people in town that are having marital difficulties but can't afford a divorce and are staying together."

The problem is they may not be able to afford help either. Said Jones, "You may not seek counseling because of the cost involved, you don't think you can afford it. And the counseling can really be beneficial to folks."

But attorneys and marriage counselors say couples should consider that divorce doesn't necessarily solve financial problems. It can make them worse. Said Ewing, "You're talking about separating and having two homes on the exact same income that you were supporting one home on. And that's difficult to do."

For couples who are divorcing, the issues have changed, from dividing assets to often dividing debts, or one parent needing to relocate for a new job, complicating child custody.

And some attorneys believe once the housing market rebounds, so will the divorce rate from couples who've been waiting. Jones agrees with the sentiment of a fellow divorce attorney, "He says its going to be divorce-a-palooza. It's going to be a jail break in terms of divorce and that's probably true. I do think a lot of people are holding off."

To try to avoid divorcing over financial matters, experts recommend:

seeking counseling,

remember divorce may make financial pressures worse,

open communication,

recommit to the marriage,

and try to work out a plan to get through the rough period together.

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