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IS THE SLOW ECONOMY HALTING DIVORCES?
April 5, 2008


We have seen the divorce rate skyrocket to almost 60% in recent years. However, the divorce pace is at a screeching halt for the moment largely due to the fact that spouses cannot afford to acquire mortgages and pay for two households due to high interest rates.

It’s the talk of the town - who would have thought that the number one reason for divorce, may also be the number one reason to stick together: money (according to About.com). Its not uncommon to hear stories about the one zealot in the family and the laggard who’s riding the coat tails. It’s a recipe for disaster.

What if that recipe was concocted in about 2004, when homes were worth 15-25% more than they are now? Mortgages in many areas exceed home values, therefore leaving the homes with not only NO equity but NEGATIVE equity. To sell, owners would have to not only come up with the difference in cash, but pay real estate agents and closing costs, and at a higher price. This author is also a real estate investor who helps individuals try to mitigate credit report damage through a company called www.ForeclosureFix.com. In over half of foreclosure cases, divorce trends to foreclosure.

It seems fairly obvious that living a lavish life with high bills, the McMansion, the 2.5 kids and the high-end gas guzzling SUVs would be a tough act to pull off when cutting income in half – or worse. Faced with that dilemma, it makes perfect sense to “tough it out” – much to the chagrin of salivating divorce attorneys.

Lets take an awful situation. A woman has an affair with her husband’s brother. He returns the favor with her sister. Ugly enough? Now, the mortgage bill comes. It's two thousand dollars. Both spouses are “casual tenants” at the house. Neither one cares about the house nor may even want it. It houses negativity and morose memories. The parties may think: “I’m not paying a DIME for that [expletive] house”. If that is indeed the case, credit is DESTROYED and the house goes to foreclosure. That inevitability is obvious. Given a moments thought, they may think: “Hmm. I can’t sell my house as it has little, no, or negative equity. I don’t have money for a down payment or lease to move out on my own. If I default on my mortgage or lease, I’ll destroy my credit and can’t get a loan or apartment, or anything requiring credit. I guess I’ll just stick this out a while .” Danielle Steele’esque – is it not?

What happens when things turn around? The economy’s booming, tons of equity in homes is being used like credit cards to buy Porsches ... lavish vacations are enjoyed after boons made in personal home sales? Certainly, the inability to pay bills can lead to stress and divorce, but as displayed above it can also lead to frustrated complacency. Similarly, windfalls and decadence can make marriage easy, yet more fleeting. If you don’t get along, what the heck, split up, you don’t need that spouse right? Uh oh, the Dow dropped, interest rates rose, property values tumbled – “Hey honey! Wanna watch a cheap movie and eat in tonight?”

~Jude Augusta


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