While anecdotal reports seem to indicate that divorce is on the rise because of the current economic situation, Fresno County, California and Comanche County, Oklahoma are both reporting a substantial drop in the number of divorce filings this year. According to data published by the county, Miami-Dade County, in Florida, was experiencing an eighteen percent drop in divorce filings in the first half of this year as compared to 2007.
It seems logical that as financial markets drop and couples face tighter finances, divorce filings will rise. After all, squabbles over finances are often the main cause of marital dissolution. Issues in a marriage involving money which may have been simmering under the surface, will likely boil over when the pressure of the economy bears down and money gets tight. Following logic, one would think that the number of fights over money would increase and the number of couples separating and divorcing would increase.
Why then are so many areas experiencing a drop in divorce filings? One reason may be that couples can not afford legal representation in the current economic market. The thought of paying an attorney when it has become increasingly difficult to meet basic obligations may be unappealing. In addition, couples may not have the financial ability right now to split their existing household into two. It is clearly cheaper to stay together in one household than to support two households. Finally, the thought of dividing assets between spouses when those assets have dropped so substantially in value over the past year may be less appealing than remaining together and keeping the entire asset. Individuals may have to get over the shock of watching the market claim almost half of a retirement account before they are ready to address the shock of having to distribute half of the remaining balance of that account to their spouse. The thought of selling a house incident to a divorce was a much easier pill to swallow when there were potential proceeds associated with the sale and there was some confidence that the parties would each be able to obtain a mortgage to purchase separate homes following the divorce. But with the drop in home prices and the instability in the mortgage market, staying put may make more sense.
Yet Pennsylvania seems to buck both trends, seeing neither a steep increase or decrease in divorces in hard economic times. The statistics published by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Health Statistics and Research show an almost steady number of divorces in the state each year.