To Divorce or not to Divorce, that is the question.

Financial strain is often the catalyst to a final decision that a marriage cannot continue on, yet divorce puts the parties through even greater financial strain. How can anyone resolve this riddle?

This question is gaining a lot of attention in the media and on legal blogs.  The  New York Divorce and Family Law Blog alone has two posts on this issue.  Some speculate that divorce rates will go up, others say that people cannot afford to divorce and so the divorce rate will go down.  While numerous media sources are talking about divorcing in a recession, it too early to tell what will happen statically.  

But, really, do you care about statistics?  What are YOU going to do?

Things to think about:

1.  Emotional costs.  Money is not the only consideration in a divorce.  Sometimes the emotional strain is more significant than the financial strain.  Do you need to get out in order to be okay emotionally?

2.  Strategy.  There are some good reasons to file for a divorce if your income is down, your assets are devalued, or your retirement value is slashed.  If you are the party who potentially has to pay alimony or give up assets to the other party, is it a good time to divide numbers?  On the other hand, could you be asked to provide support in line with numbers that no longer exist?

3.  Change is coming.  If you think that you that the other party is contemplating a major change, such as a move out of state, loss of a job, starting a new career, or some other disruption to lifestyle, you may wish to head to court before there is a big shift to the status quo.  In Utah, decisions made during the marriage are often considered to have been made jointly.

4.  Time.  No one knows how long the recession will last or if it will get better from this point or if it will get worse first.  This recession has already lasted more than the average number of months of recessions since The Great Depression.  If you do not think of the economic crisis as temporary, what would you do?  It may well be that we are experiencing a short-lived economic downturn, but thinking of your situation as permanent might help define your priorities. 

5.  Think of the children.  If you have children, sometimes being practical wins out over everything else.  How will co-parenting work logistically?  Who will pay for what when it comes to the children’s expenses?  Have realistic plans and agreeable solutions to potential problems.  Thinking things through in advance will take off some of the pressure during the divorce.  Financial aspects of divorce sometimes seem less difficult if the child-related issues can be resolved quickly and amicably.

In your own situation there may be many other factors to consider.  Take the time to do a cost-benefit analysis and think through what works for you and your family. The answer is not the same for everyone.