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Does the economy affect the divorce rate?

The decision of whether or not to file for divorce can be a difficult process. Contemplating legal separation or divorce is a major step. Many factors may come into play. For some people in the Bay Area, concerns over property division, potential support issues and creating a new budget may be involved in the decision-making process. For other people, it is not a tough decision to file for divorce. It may not be a question about if, but more a question about when to file.

New research says that during the recession, the divorce rate in the United States dropped after the economy tanked. The study says that in 2008 the divorce rate dropped nationwide. When the economy started showing signs of improvement, the rate began creeping back up.

Researchers say that from 2009 to 2011, roughly 150,000 couples who sociologists thought would divorce (as a statistical matter) in those years actually stayed married. Commentators suggest that many couples held off filing for divorce during the recession and expect that as the economy continues to improve, the divorce rate will continue to creep back up.

The research has some anomalies that sociologists say are mysterious. Unemployment rates in some ways do not seem to have any effect upon divorce rates. But, when sociologists qualify the unemployment rates to include only college graduates, divorce rates during the recent recession were lower than the general population. Among college graduates who faced foreclosure, the divorce rate seemed higher, according to the study.

A commentator from the Pew Research Center recently told the Los Angeles Times that it “tempting” to find a causal link between bad economic times and a drop in divorce rates, but that may not necessarily be true. A sociologist from Johns Hopkins says that bad economic times may influence some to delay a divorce. But others may divorce during bad economic times-- feeling that their household budgetary woes in a bad economy are not going to get better any time soon.

Whether the economy is good or bad, a person seeking a divorce may have concerns over property division and other financial matters. Establishing the value of community property may be an important process in reaching an equitable division of marital property in a divorce.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Divorces rise as economy recovers, study finds,” Emily Alpert Reyes, Jan. 27, 2014

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