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Economic woes lead to fewer divorces this year

Lawton_Fewer couples are divorcing in Comanche County.  The Comanche County Clerk's Office saw 100 more petitions for divorce this time two years ago than this year.  However, it may not be because more couples are happy with their marriages.  The economy may be the cause for decreased divorce numbers.  Divorces are expensive, and lawyer's fees aren't the only additional expenses.  The fact is, with current economic expenses, some couples may feel that staying together is cheaper.  About half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, but court costs may keep some couples together, even if they don't' want to be.

Shawn Brue has been a marriage counselor for nearly 20 years, and says that finances have always been an obstacle in committed relationships.  "I find that they struggle over what they spend money on, and certainly if a husband and wife are not in lock-step about what their family's income is supposed to be used for, then they can have a lot of fights," he said.

Divorce Attorney Andy Krieger says the financial fight is constant - it's there all the time - and it's one of the primary reasons couples divorce.  "The number two reason for divorces is financial problems - the number one being abuse," he said.  "You'd think infidelity would be up there, but it wasn't."  Financial struggle can lead to other marital problems, such as infidelity, power struggles, and secrecy. 

However, Brue says the financial problems couples may have, might not be at the root of the conflict.  "Usually, it's not just financial problems; it usually points to communication problems," he said.  "Finances are where it shows up, but it's not the only issue."  He says that those issues can lead to a desire to dissolve the marriage.  "If people want to leave, but they can't afford to pay for a place by themselves, then they're kind of stuck," said Krieger.

For those couples who can afford to divorce, they'll have to determine who gets what - but, it isn't all about assets anymore.  "It's people fighting over who's going to pay the credit card bills, rather than who's going to keep the china cabinet," said Krieger.  "More and more people are getting to the point where they don't have anything to fight over except bills."

Brue says that if the expenses of a divorce is keeping one from happening, it could actually cause couples to re-evaluate the relationship.  "Maybe that will give couples a pause and step back and say, ‘Is this fixable?'  ‘Can we spend a little bit of time and energy trying to fix our relationship, and avoid the emotional and financial cost of divorce?'"  He says couples getting out of debt is the big issue, and recommends financial counseling that are offered by several churches in town.

Krieger says that some couples also are opting to file for bankruptcy, which he says can make divorces easier when debt is an issue since it solves both problems at the same time.

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