We're staying together for the sake of our budgets: Recession slows divorce rate

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Divorces over the last six months have dropped by 40%, according to a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, but that doesn't mean fewer couples are actually splitting up.

Thanks to the recession and uncertain job market, couples are living separately in their homes rather than setting up two households or selling the family home in a down market, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

Official government data on divorce rates is not yet out, but Los Angeles County says divorce filings are down 9% from last year. In New York County courts report 14% fewer couples filed for divorce in the first four months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2007.

Some think this could be good news. They believe that if the couple continues to live together, even if they don't sleep together, it gives them time to work out problems and reconcile. As long as the couple does not continue fighting, children will live in a less stressful situation than before the decision to divorce.

But the downturn in housing prices likely won't correct for several years, so how long can a couple put off selling a family home and continue to live together as two single people?

In the Journal story it talks about two different types of living arrangements. One couple set up their finished basement as a separate apartment with separate entrances. The couple actually calls each other rather than just knock on the door. In another situation one spouse sleeps on the couch each night. In both situations dating can be very weird.

Both couples have not been able to sell their homes, which is a common problem nationwide, so they can't afford to set up a second household and move on. Have you been faced with a similar problem -- putting off divorce because of the financial downturn?

While I can understand financially why people delay divorce, I wonder how wise this is if children are involved. Children do prefer their parents stay together. So as long as the couple can live without fighting constantly it probably won't hurt them, but it will give children a distorted idea of how marriage works.

Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Credit Score."
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