Since it's now official that the U.S. economy is in a recession, many more couples are likely discussing not only money issues, but divorce as well. There are several theories about why recession and divorce seem to go together, although everyone seems to agree that the two go hand in hand.
Some divorce lawyers say that without a money cushion, couples are left with the bare bones of their relationships and sometimes that's not so pretty to look at. Once they realize what the relationship actually is at its core, many want a divorce.
Time Magazine reports that marriage counselors generally have a different take on why more couples divorce during an economic recession. According to the counselors, couples who never really saw eye to eye on finances anyway suffer total relationship breakdowns as they deplete their resources and fight more over money matters.
When therapists weigh in on what pushes couples into filing for divorce during recessions, they describe a chain reaction. First financial woes cause stress, and the stress can lead to depression. Living with a stressed and depressed person is not fun, so many decide at that point that they want out of the marriage.
Nobel laureate and University of Chicago Graduate School of Business economist Gary Becker says that it’s a fact that recessions do raise divorce rates but do not generally cause a sharp spike; however, depending on how severe the current recession becomes, a dramatic rise in the divorce rate could be around the corner.
According to Census Bureau figures, recessions have only had minor effects on divorce rates over the past 25 years. The only time in the last 75 years that a sharp rise in divorces has been recorded was just after World War II, but Americans now carry the burden of more debt than they have in the past, so it is not known how many may divorce during the current recession. There is some speculation that a historic spike in divorce rates could be on the way.
The timing of divorce during recession can be important to wealthy people. Some divorce lawyers say that as the stock market has tanked, they have heard from some business owners and investors. While these people are poorer on paper they feel that it may be an ideal time to divorce and work out a division of assets.
For people who are not wealthy, the typical assets that need to be divided during divorce are also less valuable these days. Retirement accounts have lost value during the recession and many couples now have no equity left in their homes. This type of situation has divorce lawyers stuck dividing up debts rather than assets or money. Some couples decide to stick with the marriage, at least for a while longer, when they realize that selling their home is now nearly impossible.
For the rich and non-rich alike, a poor economy creates stress that can lead to or magnify problems in a marriage. It remains to be seen if the current economic problems will cause a dramatic rise in the divorce rate in the United States, or if many couples will decide to stay together and weather the storm.