Monday, March 2, 2009

If You Need to Wait Because You Can't Afford to Divorce...


There is a lot of discussion going on about whether the number of divorces being filed is decreasing. Many observers say that is true because of the economy, and it makes some sense. As bad as a family situation may be, many people begin to feel that they can't afford to get divorced.

  • Some people are experiencing the mortgage crisis in their lives. Home values are plunging in many areas, although not as much in North Texas. Tarrant County home values, so far, are still doing pretty well and houses are selling, but who knows for how long. Even so, it is harder to get mortgages now.

  • Many people are losing their jobs. Again, although Tarrant County seems to be stronger than many other areas, unemployment has greatly increased. Everyone is eventually affected by what is happening everywhere else.

  • The stock market fall has badly damaged many retirement accounts and investment portfolios. The values are down by a third to a half, sometimes more.

  • With prices rising, even for those people lucky enough to hang onto their jobs, it is hard to pay for food, fuel, utilities and other necessities.

  • Insurance costs are going up and coverage is falling. Health care costs are increasing. Anyone with health issues now certainly faces greater difficulty in paying for necessary services.

Given those circumstances, it's no wonder that people may be deciding to wait on a divorce until they can better afford it.

For people choosing to wait, here are some other options:

1. Get a post-nuptial agreement. Many people are familiar to some extent with pre-nuptial agreements. I have written about them before. A post-nup is like a pre-nup, only later. Texas law allows a married couple to sign a partition agreement to divide their assets and liabilities. It can also provide for how present and future income will be managed. While it is not cheap, a post-nuptial partition agreement is probably much less expensive than a divorce and it will accomplish about the same thing as a divorce as far as property division. An attorney would be needed for each side. I would suggest using Collaborative Law to work out the agreement on the best possible terms for both parties, so you would be best served by contacting Collaborative lawyers.

2. Do financial planning. This is a less dramatic step than doing a partition agreement. The couple could meet with a financial planner to brainstorm ideas to find the best way to manage their finances during the downturn and into the future. A lot of the stress people are experiencing is from uncertainty about survival now and in the future. Getting qualified help to plan a strategy may resolve the concerns and leave the parties in a better frame of mind. A certified divorce financial planner or a regular financial planner can probably help you with this.

3. Take steps to enhance your marriage. Getting counseling is a common suggestion, but it makes sense. If you feel like you can't afford a divorce, but one or both of you is miserable in the relationship, then maybe you should try to make the relationship more bearable. Sometimes a marriage retreat can be helpful. There may be some groups around that you could join. Or, you could go to individual and couples counseling. Things around the house might really improve if you and your spouse follow through with counseling. Even if your marriage doesn't survive, at least the divorce later on might be more civilized. First, contact a marriage and family therapist and give it a try.

If you are haveing serious problems at home with your spouse, but you think you can't afford a divorce, you should consider the suggestions above.

1 comment:

Craig Fowler said...

Early Intervention Mediation is another way to reduce the costs of divorce. A qualified family law mediator meets with the couple using the collaborative model to facilitate an informal settlement agreement. Only one of the parties needs to hire an attorney to prepare a petition, waiver of service and decree of divorce.