RecessionThe current recession appears to be affecting divorce rates, which had declined, but now may be on the rise. A recent study suggests finances may play the larger role in determining whether a couple stays together.

“The Survey of Marital Generosity” from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia indicates that the financial strain of the recession strengthens some marriages and places more stress on others, causing them to fail.

During this recession, have people focused on what really matters in their relationships, or have their finances become so bad that they can’t afford to divorce because their mortgages are underwater and they can’t sell their houses for enough to pay off the loans?

Stronger and Weaker?

The report notes, “the Great Recession has had a double-edged impact on American marriages,” said Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project. “For some, the financial stresses associated with the Great Recession have hurt their marriages. But for others, this recession has fostered a new commitment to marriage that appears to have improved the quality and stability of their marriages.”

Of those with two or three financial stressors (job loss, reduced hours, mortgage foreclosure, etc.), only 27 percent report happy marriages.

Thirty-eight percent of those who were considering divorce before the recession say that the recession has caused them to put their divorces or separations on hold.

Couple looking at bills during RecessionDivorce by Multiple Cuts

During this recession, many people have lost jobs and had their homes decline in value. This can place great pressure on the family’s resources, and these financial problems can lead a couple down the road to divorce.

During this recession, however, the decline in home values often leaves owners owing more on their loans than they could sell their houses for — assuming in this market they can sell them.

When the house is the largest marital asset, usually in divorce the home either has to be sold, or one spouse has to buy the other spouse’s share. The problem is often compounded by the exceedingly weak real estate market.

Houses that have been reduced in price linger on a market flooded with foreclosed properties. This means some couples simply cannot afford a divorce and have to postpone it.

No matter what your situation, speaking with an experienced family law attorney is a good idea. He or she can help you prepare for a divorce or separation, even if you can’t move ahead today. Divorce is a complex matter, and all the more in today’s economy. Planning now can make the process go more smoothly when you are finally in a position to proceed.

Kathryn J. Murphy

“Helping clients weigh the benefits of any given action, as well as the financial and emotional costs, is at the core of everything we do.” – Kathryn Murphy