Divorce Rates Increasing as Economy Rebounds (Select Link to watch CNN video report)
Interesting report from CNN. Most divorce attorneys reported a decrease in the number of new clients during the recession. It was rather unprecedented for the industry as financial woes typically precipitate or occur in connection with a divorce filing (people typically divorce due to issues involving sex, money, or children). The decrease in new divorce cases during the economic downturn occurred because of the higher rates of unemployment and the dismal housing market. Many couples felt trapped because they couldn’t sell their homes or were upside down, and for many, it was their most significant asset.
Transitioning into two households also seemed daunting for couples who were struggling to make ends meet in one. With job losses and concerns about relocation costs or child support, many couples chose to remain in unhappy marriages, or would “informally” separate (sleeping in separate bedrooms, alternating child care schedules or house-sharing), cohabiting as roommates due to the financial strains. Rarely did this arrangement lead to reconciliation. In fact, this forced cohabitation resulted in more stress and deteriorated communication as couples struggled with redefining their new living situations and relationship interactions while attempting to move on emotionally from their damaged marriages.
Couples who pursued alternatives to litigation found that divorce was still an option. Attorneys with mediation and collaborative law practices actually saw an increase in these services during the recession, as couples learned their were more affordable methods to dissolve their marriages than the traditional litigation process. Not only are these alternatives less expensive in attorneys’ fees, couples could also be more creative with the language and terms included in negotiated settlement agreements regarding timelines for distributing or selling property. Cooperating on terms to preserve that asset until a more favorable time enabled spouses to finalize divorces and concentrate on rebuilding their lives, while minimizing the emotional and financial fallout of the most difficult transition.
As a side note, we sigh at the continuing use of the word “matrimonial” attorney. By definition “matrimonial” refers to marriage, but we find that “family law” is much more appropriate and relevant terminology. There are a number of different types of families now who have issues to resolve involving property and children. Marital dissolution is not the only issue facing couples, given the higher numbers of cohabitation and domestic partnerships.