By Craig Erwin, Ph.D. 12-8-20
Divorce can cause serious harm. Many marriages end in divorce. Although back in the 1980’s it was believed that about half of all marriages ended in divorce, the U.S. divorce rate has declined somewhat since then, even though many would argue that it is still much too high. But, it is still too high if one considers the pain, suffering, and financial consequences of divorce. Divorce can take a heavy toll on children, but the long-term financial consequences for the divorced couple can also be great. Perhaps engaged couples should be required to examine the adverse effects of divorce so they consider it a last resort. It is likely that many divorcees look back with regret at their failed marriages when, as senior citizens, they are not only poor, but they also lack someone to help when they are ill or injured.
One way that financial preparedness for both children and retirement can be sabotaged is through divorce. Unfortunately, both children and parents often suffer as a result of divorce and it can throw a wrench into the best financial plans. As a result, one of the smartest financial moves a couple can make is to stay married. Easier said than done in many cases, but, if it’s possible to stay together, benefits result. There are financial benefits that stem from marriage continuity and some steep expenses associated with divorce.
Is it realistic to believe that some divorces can be avoided? Perhaps. Low fee, no-fault divorces have made divorce too tempting in some cases, and too easy to execute. Although in some cases divorce is the only solution that will spare a battered spouse or abused children, there are many cases in which couples probably rush to divorce even though their marital problems could be addressed in other, less permanent and damaging ways, such as through couples counseling. Too often couples give up easily (when times get tough) when some could weather the turbulence and emerge with a stronger, more durable marriage if they only sought professional help instead of throwing in the towel.
It is unlikely that many couples rationally consider the financial consequences of a divorce. Instead they may race headlong toward dissolution, driven primarily by their emotions, not reason. In some cases, only after they date or marry someone new do they realize that the problem with their marriage was not their partner, but their inability to communicate and their lack of problem solving skills. They realize that their marriage could have been saved and that the solution to their marital problems was not new partners, but learning new ways to communicate and work out differences.
Although some marriages will always end in divorce, couples should know that, even though divorce may seem tempting when things get rough, they would be wise to consider thoughtfully whether divorce is necessary, given the negative financial consequences that often result from divorce.