Thursday, January 29, 2009

Can't Afford to Divorce

It seems that more people are staying together because they really can't afford to divorce. A recent newspaper article from Birmingham, Alabama discussed the situation there. Although there is talk of that here in Texas, there have been no local in-depth surveys or studies. Nevertheless, the economy undoubtedly is having an impact. There are reports in Tarrant County that the number of new divorce filings is down. Here are some of the reasons why this is happening.
  • Can't afford the cost of a divorce. Divorces are expensive for everyone. Of course, the cost is often related to amount of fighting going on, but even a minimal amount of legal work can be expensive.
  • Can't afford to support two households. Doubling the house payment and utilities can be overwhelming when most people tend to live up to their income limits regardless of how much or how little income they have.
  • Lost a job. There have been overwhelming numbers of workers who have suddenly lost their jobs recently. Certainly, a job becomes the top priority, and the loss of a job creates huge financial and emotional stress for an individual and a family.
  • Lost retirement. While housing values are falling and people are losing their jobs, almost everyone who has retirement funds has suffered a substantial loss. It's the kind of loss that sends retired people back to work and puts off retirement for others. When you start talking about dividing up some significantly reduced retirement accounts, there may not be much retirement left after divorce.
  • Can't sell the house. It used to be that retirement funds and house equity were often the biggest assets of couples. With retirement funds shrinking, there's just not much left for some people because house values have also gone down and it has become much harder to sell and house.
So what's a person to do if he/she wants a divorce?
  • Consider staying together. Get some counseling and work together on common goals. Don't expect overnight solutions, but the greatest value may be staying together if both parties commit to working on solving their problems.
  • Try Collaborative Law. The problems outlined above call for creative solutions. The standard approach of dividing everything down the middle may not be appropriate or leave the parties with enough to get by. Following the Collaborative problem-solving process, starting with analyzing each party's needs and goals, a couple can be guided to to some creative solutions to adapt to the financial reality. In Tarrant County, and most of Texas, we utilize a mental health professional and a financial professional to help the parties and that improves the outcomes for the parties.

  • Borrow funds. If divorce is necessary and urgent, maybe the best course of action is to borrow the funds to pay for it. You can approach family members or maybe you have credit somewhere that you can use. Remember that you will have to pay back the borrowed funds, so spend your money wisely. Investigate whether you think it will be more to your financial advantage to take the litigation approach or to use Collaborative Law. Be sure to discuss your situation with a trained Collaborative lawyer before you decide.

  • Just wait. It's sort of the opposite of the Nike slogan. If you can't afford to divorce, if you can't borrow funds and if you can't figure out how a Collaborative divorce could save you money, then maybe you should wait.

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