March 6, 2009
Staying married because you can't afford a divorce right now
I saw a TV news piece last week about the current drop in divorce rates, presumably because dissatisfied spouses can't afford the legal fees, the moving costs, and the price tag of living solo right now -- especially if one of them has lost their job.
A December 2008 MarketWatch article dug up this stat on the trend:
"The [American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers] surveyed its members -- all divorce lawyers -- and found that 37 percent of them have seen a decrease in the number of couples seeking a divorce, while just 19 percent saw an increase in divorce cases."
According to AAAML president Gary Nickelson, this doesn't come as a surprise. MarketWatch reported him as saying, "That's been my experience over the last 35 years. When you have an economic downturn, people are not so quick to change their situation."
But staying together because you can't afford not to isn't just the plight of couples who've taken marital vows. I know a few unwed pairs who stayed shacked up several months after ending their relationship last year because one of them had been laid off and couldn't afford to move out and rent their own place right away.
Waiting out the recession when you're in a romantic relationship that's run its course is obviously easier to do if you have a guest bedroom or sizable abode -- or at least a comfortable couch. But there's also the matter of dealing with the kids: Do you let on that Mommy and Daddy (or Mommy and Mommy, or Daddy and Daddy) have entered into a "strictly business" arrangement? Do you dare let them see you sleeping in separate bedrooms?
I've never been divorced (or for that matter, married), though I have experienced the splitting up of households and doubling of expenses that comes with ending a long-term live-in romantic partnership. At the time, I was young and living on a dime anyway. So going from one cheap apartment rental to two wasn't such a financial shock. I recall the biggest issue being the dog, the mutual friends, and the CD collection.
That's why I'd love to hear from readers on this one. If you have a story to share about staying in a relationship longer than you would have liked because of this recession, do tell. Where are you both sleeping? If you have kids, have you told them what's going on? Do you have an end date in mind for your cohabitation? Any tips you can offer others trying to muddle through this situation?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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