Divorce even more difficult in tough financial times

By Randall M. Kessler
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
12/26/2008

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Randall M. Kessler
Randall M. Kessler
As a family law attorney, it is clear to me that almost nothing will stop a divorce if that is what someone really wants.

Logic might dictate a bit more reflection before filing for divorce in a bad economy. Most people do reflect even more nowadays, but the reality is when you need a divorce, the economy and everything else is secondary.

While many think that divorce is an “easy way out,” it surely is anything but. Those who make the difficult decision usually do so knowing that finances, time with their children and relationships with their spouse’s friends and families will be much more difficult.

But that just goes to the point of how much the person feels a need to separate. Knowing that it will be difficult financially and emotionally, especially in these difficult financial times, may cause married people to think even harder about going through a divorce. But staying together simply for financial reasons is not what most want to do.

So how does the economy affect divorce?

Maybe, it puts a weak brake on the process. Maybe, it causes a brief pause, but ultimately, divorce is not about economics, it is about the pursuit of happiness. And when people feel there is no longer any chance of happiness in their marriage, that is the time they consider divorce. This must be true because almost no one is financially better off after a divorce. After a divorce, two households must live on the same income that had supported one household.

Again, most people are thinking with their hearts or “gut” and perceive that a divorce will bring happiness, or alleviate their problems. However, in this economy the financial consequences of a divorce can be much worse than before. We are seeing more and more layoffs, which means families are going from two incomes to one or none.

Unfortunately, the decision to divorce is usually anything but an economic choice. With tougher financial times comes worse interpersonal behavior. Crankiness, anxiety, tension all increase and, sadly, this results in frustration often being taken out on the closest person around, usually the spouse (or even the kids). With tensions and frustrations increasing between household members, it is not surprising that we are seeing a rise in divorce. But if there was ever a list of wrong reasons to divorce, trying to relieve the pressures of a bad economy ranks near the top.

So what is my advice? Do everything, absolutely everything, you can to explore how to restore happiness to your relationship. If there is absolutely no chance and a separation is inevitable, do it peacefully and with dignity. Talk about the issues with your spouse if possible. Rely on a good counselor. Get referrals from friends for a therapist or mediator and do whatever you can to develop a plan for the next steps.

Rushing to an attorney to file papers should be the very last option. But if that is what is needed, even then try to approach it in a positive way.

> Randall M. Kessler is editor of Family Law Review for the State Bar of Georgia and teaches family law at John Marshall Law School.

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