Atlanta Divorce Lawyers Suggest Divorce Rates Down, Spike on the Horizon

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A number of divorce attorneys in metro-Atlanta are seeing a drop in divorce filings, but insist the numbers only tell half the story. An increase in pre-divorce consultations, they explain, suggests a large increase in the rate of divorce on the horizon.

couples that experience any sudden significant and unexpected change in income - positive or negative - are at risk of divorce.

Noted divorce lawyers throughout Atlanta are reporting a recent dip in divorce cases, confirming a study conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers that showed 37 percent of attorneys reported a drop in filings.

But many Atlanta divorce lawyers insist that any correlation between the weakened economy and the drop in divorce rates is far from established, arguing against the commonly-held assumption that tough economic times compel couples to stay together. A strained pocketbook may mean couples cannot afford an immediate divorce, they explain, but the long-term consequences of stressed and often unhappy relationships are less than clear.

Atlanta divorce lawyer Michael Rothenberg explains: "Our practice has certainly seen a drop in divorce filings, but we're also experiencing a parallel increase in pre-divorce consultations. It suggests that individuals are postponing, not changing, their plans to file for divorce."

Harvard-educated divorce attorney Seth Woodard Persily echoed these sentiments. His Atlanta practice, Persily Family Law (http://www.persilylaw.com), routinely counsels clients on pre-divorce legal strategies, such as locking down an individual's assets long before they file divorce paperwork. "What interests me is not the recent dip in divorce filings. That's to be expected. What interests me are the less tangible data that these studies don't show but that professionals in the field see every day - rising intra-family arguments, stress levels, and emotional exhaustion. All of it foreshadows a hefty spike in divorce rates on the horizon."

The idea was highlighted in a recent Forbes article, "Divorce During Recession," in which University of Chicago economist Gary Becker pointed out that "recession has always been a factor raising divorce rates." His studies, published in the Journal of Political Economy, concluded that "couples that experience any sudden significant and unexpected change in income - positive or negative - are at risk of divorce."

While there can be several explanations as to how and why money impacts the rate of divorce, Attorney Rothenberg points out that financial disagreements are already the primary cause of divorce in the United States. When you compound routine marital disagreements over money with declining home values and the loss of jobs, it becomes the "perfect storm" of issues that many marriages are unable to overcome.

Surprisingly, however, Census Bureau figures show that over the past 25 years, economic downturns have only had a negligible effect on the rate of divorce, which has been slowly declining since the early 1980s after 20 years of steadily rising. According to the Associated Press, the divorce rate in 2005 was .036%, the lowest rate since 1970, and down from .042% in 2000 and .047% in 1990. The peak was at .053% in 1981. The numbers suggest the possibility that in the long-term, economic upturns and downturns may have a significantly smaller impact on long-term familial stability than once thought.

All in all, Mr. Persily argues that it is too early to understand the full impact the recession will have on American family dynamics. But he warns that in light of the fact that the current recession may be graver than previous ones, "The mixture of elevated marital anxiety levels, little means for couples to effectively cope with their problems, and an economic climate that promises to remain bleak for an indefinite period of time all portend a worrisome increase in divorces in the near future."

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