The Great Recession’s Affect on Pennsylvania Divorces

The recent recession in the United States has directly affected the economic and personal lives of Americans. A secondary affect of the recession has been on the divorce rate.

A recent article from the Wall Street Journal notes that divorce rates have decreased as the economic crisis has increased.

The reason that the divorce rate has decreased is that poorer employment opportunities and a decrease in the value of martial assets have forced couples to remain together, notwithstanding marital difficulties. As a result, many couples that want to separate and divorce are either putting their cases on hold or are looking for more creative and cost efficient means by which to separate and divorce.

A primary reason that the divorce rate has decreased during this recession is because of the particularly grim employment market.

Unemployment rates have stubbornly remained around 10%, and the percentage of people working with reduced hours or pay is far in excess of that number. Complicating matters is that divorces are often instigated by financial problems. In many divorces one or both of the spouses involved have either lost a job, have their job in jeopardy, or had their hours or pay reduced. Consequently, many estranged spouses are in a financial bind, when it comes to their divorce, giving a whole new meaning to the promise “for richer or poorer.” Many couples simply do not have enough money necessary to support themselves separately and pay for their other financial obligations and, therefore, are choosing to remain together out of economic necessity.

In the past, divorcing couples often used equity that they built up in their marital residence to fund their divorce and provide each of them with a nest egg to begin their separate lives. House prices have dropped significantly, however, wiping out much or all of the equity. Worse yet, in many situations, couples are “upside down” on their mortgages and need to attempt a short sale to separate financially.

The Bucks County divorce attorneys at Cooley & Handy have seen these effects of the recession on the divorce rate first hand.

In certain cases, moving divorces forward has become more difficult because couples do not have the financial wherewithal to support themselves separately and the marital assets worth significantly less than they were just a few years ago. Many clients or their spouses have also experienced employment problems. Beginning in the spring of 2009, Cooley & Handy and other Bucks County divorce lawyers noticed a drop in the amount of new divorce cases (and an upswing in the amount of domestic abuse cases).

That trend, however, has recently reversed itself and Cooley & Handy has experienced a sharp increase in new divorce cases over the past six months. Some of the increase may be attributable to the improved economy. Some of the increase, however, is likely attributable to couples who previously delayed their divorces but are no longer willing to do so – there is a limit to the amount of time that a person case remain living with an estranged spouse.

Couples that have been affected by the recession need to figure out new ways of dealing with separation and divorce when finances are lacking.

In some situations, where animosity is low, couples have been able to split up the house while cohabitating it and implement shared custody schedules while the divorce is pending. Couples can also avoid incurring large legal and other bills by attempting to be more cooperative with each other in resolving disputes. When legal action is necessary, it is best to be as flexible as possible. In some divorces, couples will attempt to resolve their economic issues together, and then one spouse will consult with and retain the Bucks County divorce attorneys at Cooley & Handy to draft a property settlement agreement based on the previously agreed terms and process the divorce. Although it is always prudent to consult with a divorce attorney prior to negotiating with your spouse, so you fully understand what your legal rights are and the likely outcome of a court-ordered equitable distribution.

In short, the Bucks County divorce lawyers at Cooley & Handy have found that many of the divorces they handle in Bucks County, Montgomery County and Philadelphia County are requiring more creative solutions. They acknowledge the financial pressure from the broken economy and want to help potential clients in any way possible.