As a divorce attorney, I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice the effect the Great Recession has had on my practice. Like almost every business in any industry, I’ve noticed that fewer new clients are walking through the door. But I wasn’t aware of the startling effect the Great Recession has had on divorce rates generally. A recent piece by NPR’s All Things Considered informed me that studies have shown that for every one percent increase in the unemployment rate, there is a one percent corresponding drop in the divorce rate.
This correlation isn’t due to families “doubling down” and growing closer in the face of adversity, but because couples who would otherwise part ways cannot afford to do so. They cannot afford Court and attorney’s fees, nor do they have the cash on hand to properly divide their estate. The end result is that people who have terminated their relationship are forced to remain married to one another, often under the same roof. For some couples, however, this is an unbearable condition. Throughout history, divorce rates and rates of domestic violence including homicide have shared a correlation: when divorce rates go up, domestic violence rates go down. The end result of combining all of this information is a frightening picture: when the stressors that make divorce most likely are affecting millions of people, the same root cause places divorce out of reach. These same stressors make domestic violence more likely, and the inability to obtain a divorce or remove oneself from the marital home make domestic violence more difficult to escape.
So what information can I provide those in such a situation?
- You may qualify as an “indigent”, or a person who simply does not have the means to afford the fees associated with divorce. If you do, filing fees and other court costs may be waived. You may also be eligible for free legal advice or representation.
- Divorcing may require you to “liquidate” your assets, or to transfer property from one spouse to the other. You should note that the IRS allows divorcing couples to transfer property between one another without incurring any taxes for such transfers.
- Lastly, you should note that if you and/or your children are being subjected to abuse by your spouse, there are both legal protections and other resources available to you.
There are certainly times when divorce is simply out of the question, but if you or someone you know is placing their physical, emotional, or mental health at risk due to the Great Recession, waiting for the economy to turn around should not be an option.