Divorcing In This Economy

March 9, 2009

Financial problems are at the root of many disagreements between couples, and divorce is difficult to face at any time in one’s life.  However, the recession brings money worries to the forefront of issues in nearly every marital breakup.  In these tough economic times, there are many issues to consider if you are contemplating divorce. 

Declining Market Value.  In a Wisconsin divorce, the Court has the authority to divide your assets and liabilities.  However, declining real estate and other investment values means that there is less of a pie to divide.  Most people have less today than they had even a few short weeks ago.   Unfortunately, many families are “upside down” on their homes — often the single biggest asset in the estate.  It is critical to properly identify, value and divide all assets (and debts) in order to achieve an equitable division of the marital estate.   I encourage anyone in this situation to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer.

Rising Unemployment.   The rising numbers of the jobless has drastic economic implications for divorcing families.  Child support and maintenance (alimony) are based largely on the parties’ incomes.  Even the still-employed are grappling with the effects of reduced or eliminated overtime work, cuts in hours, wage freezes and the like.   Diminished income results in less pie to share among members of the family.  If there is little to no money available, there is often little to no economic support to the spouse and children.  As a result, many couples literally cannot afford to separate under these conditions.

A Silver Lining.  The surprising upside for those divorcing in this economic downturn is that if they are working less, they are typically more available to parent their children.  Wisconsin law allows the courts to consider parents’ work schedules and availability to care for their children when deciding upon physical placement arrangements.  Being around early in the morning, during the day while the other parent works, after school, in the evening and on weekends can all translate into more quality time with your children.  In a time when all news seems bad, that is something to smile about.

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