The Recession Factor: Pushing Unhappy Couples into Divorce Alternatives


Divorce can be an expensive decision for couples, especially if one or both spouses experience unemployment, declining real estate values or another financial loss or crisis before or after filing. The inconvenience and cost of dissolving a marriage is aggravated by the current economic climate. The recession factor is forcing unhappy and financially strapped couples, both in Georgia and around the U.S., to wait longer to split or to look for frugal alternatives to complete the divorce process and secure their future happiness.
Georgia Divorces

According to the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, divorces in the U.S. for 2008 numbered around 835,000. This figure was down from the divorce filings recorded for the two previous years of about 856,000 and 872,000 for 2007 and 2006, respectively. This steady national decline in the number, and also the rate, for divorces has mirrored the downward economic trend, which is also reflected in most states, especially southern states like Georgia.

For Georgia, divorces in 2008 numbered just under 60,000. This was a decrease from the over 64,000 divorces that were reported in 2007 and approximately 66,000 for 2006. While Georgia was once a model for stable marriages when compared nationally, the state’s divorce rate has continued to climb even as the number of marriages and divorces has fallen. According to Georgia divorce records during the period from 2004 to 2009, divorce filings decreased 33 percent while at the same time marriages dropped by 42 percent. The cause of the major shift in starting and ending marriages may be related to the recession.

Financial Realities

The high percentage of unemployment, lower compensation and the plunging real estate market are all a huge blow to the family lives and relationships of many Americans, and specifically Georgians, who are directly impacted. As a result, researchers indicate that many Georgia couples cannot afford to marry or divorce, so they are postponing exercising these rights until the economy, and their monetary situations, improve. For would-be divorcees, the financial realities they face can put one or both spouses, and any children who are involved, in challenging positions.

For example, if either the husband or wife is currently unemployed, stays at home or earns less than the other spouse, he or she may have a harder time recovering financially from a divorce. If a couple also has a large debt load, the higher-earning spouse may be burdened with paying it off alone. Because of similar situations, some husbands and wives have chosen to save money or pay off their debts by staying in their marriages longer than average or cohabiting their marital homes following their divorce filing or even after their divorce is finalized. This can lead to unhealthy environments for once-happy families.

Dividing Assets

The community property of a married couple is split up fairly in the event of their divorce in Georgia. Anything purchased during the marriage is divided between the spouses, and anything purchased before the marriage or inherited belongs to that spouse when the marriage ends. If a couple cannot agree on the asset distribution between themselves or with the help of an attorney or mediator, courts will divide the property as they see fit. Common marital assets are debts, vehicles, savings, business interests, furniture pieces and houses.

One asset that is typically the largest and most difficult to deal with is the family home. Particularly in today’s real estate market, home values are low and selling times are high. While cohabitation may appear to be a good option, it should be a last resort for couples. Instead, divorcing spouses should agree to hang onto the house until the market improves or work with their banks to try to short-sell their homes, which is where the mortgage lender approves the sale of a house for less than what is owed and releases the homeowners from the loan. If no good solutions exist to resolve mortgage issues or other debts before a divorce, spouses may choose to file bankruptcy to secure future happiness.

Future Happiness

Regardless of financial circumstances, spouses who decide to end their marriages have the legal right to divorce. If you are considering divorce and are worried about how to pay for it, or if you are scared that you will be financially ruined by doing so, contact an experienced Georgia family law attorney before you file. A lawyer who is familiar with all aspects of the divorce process, including exploring alternatives to litigation and dividing up marital property, can discuss all the options available to you based on your unique situation. Your future happiness depends on putting your current marriage behind you as quickly as possible, so you cannot afford to delay calling an attorney for help.