'Til Death (Or Economic Recovery) Do Us Part
As the real estate and employment markets improve, Americans are no longer stuck in houses they've outgrown or jobs they can't stand—and that's not the only baggage they're unloading.
The recovery seems to have sparked an increase in divorces.
"There's been an uptick in divorces in general going on over the last several months," said Alton L. Abramowitz, a New York City divorce lawyer and president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Why? Abramowitz attributed the recovery of the economy, particularly the stock market's robust run. "People become more secure that they'll be able to take care of themselves," he said. "With that security comes the belief that we can have two households and support two households."
"Increased mobility—both personal and career—acts as a pressure valve for backlogged marital discontent," Richard Komaiko, co-founder of AttorneyFee.com, a site that lets users compare lawyers and how much they charge, said via e-mail.
More disposable income does more than just provide people with confidence and mobility—it means they can pay for legal representation.
"Marriages are always going downhill ... but it is expensive to file for divorce," said Kelly Chang Rickert, a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles. "Now they can afford a good divorce lawyer."
After the recession took its toll on Nevada's labor and housing markets, "people simply couldn't afford it," said Gary Silverman, a divorce lawyer in Reno. "They didn't have enough money to pay lawyers, there was nothing to divide and there was no way to support children and former spouses."
Silverman said "pent-up demand" is behind the 25 to 50 percent increase he's seen in business over the past year.
Although Census data show only a tiny rise in the number of people who identified as separated or divorced between 2008 and 2012, data from legal websites indicate that recent months could mark the leading edge of a trend.
Avvo.com, a site where people can search for legal advice and representation, saw an 80 percent increase in divorce-related questions asked by users from 2012 to 2013. In the first quarter of this year, divorce searches accounted for nearly 10 percent of traffic on Avvo. During the same time period last year, only 1 percent of searches were about divorce.
Komaiko reported similar findings when he took monthly housing stats and net job creation and compared them to the number of divorce consultations his site facilitated in April.
"There's a remarkable correlation between the housing curve and the divorce curve," he said. "Job creation also varies positively with divorce. However, the housing market appears to be a more reliable predictor."
People seem to want out of their marriages all over the country. On Avvo's new legal marketplace platform, company spokeswoman Kari Day said the top cities where people were going online to hire a divorce lawyer were Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago.
"Most divorces come down to money," Silverman said. "When they feel there are enough resources, they don't have to live with somebody they don't want to."