There are many reasons couples decide to get divorced. Over the years as a practicing family law attorney I have heard just about every explanation there is for seeking a divorce. One fairly common reason couples often cite for seeking a divorce is financial strain. There can be no dispute that we live in financially stressful times. One can hardly turn on the news these days without hearing a story about the economy and the impact it is having on some aspect of our daily lives. But, does the state of the economy also influence the decision of whether or not to get divorced?
I recently came across an interesting articlediscussing a recent study that the impact the economy has on divorce rates. The study, which was recently published in Population Research and Policy Review hypothesizes that the divorce rates of couples in the United States actually decreased during the recession from 2009 through 2011. However, as the economy recovers, the divorce rate among couples in the United States has increased. This seems somewhat counterintuitive. Why would couples stick together and tough in out when things are most financially stressful (i.e. during a recession), but when some of those financial strains disappear decide to go their separate ways?
Philip N. Cohen, the University of Maryland sociologist who conducted the research provides some insight. Mr. Cohen found that while there is no doubt that economic difficulty can lead to divorce; during a recession, when couples are often stretched to their financial limits, divorce can be cost prohibitive. Divorcing leads to changes in costs in housing (instead of combining incomes to pay for one house, each spouse becomes responsible, to a certain extent for his or her own housing). Divorce also often leads to legal fees, the need for daycare and other costs associated with having separate homes. Thus, according to Mr. Cohen, a recession can create barriers that make divorce cost prohibitive and also creates issues that may take precedence over marital troubles.
On the other hand, when the economy improves, divorce rates may rise. For some, the improvement in their financial situation provides them the freedom and perhaps security necessary to split up. In other words, according to the study, some people put off getting divorced until they can afford it.
Cohen is clear that the precise reasons behind the rise and fall of divorce rates due to economic conditions is still somewhat murky. This is by no means an exact science. People decide to end their “happily ever after” for many reasons. Financial strain is but one of many considerations many couples may consider when deciding to split up. In a world where so much of day-to-day life is dictated by financial conditions; add divorce to the list of life experiences that may be influenced by the current state of the economy.