Many Americans Are Too Broke to Get Divorced Amid Inflation


A growing number of Americans may be deciding to forgo the divorces they want due to the tough economic environment.

Nearly one in three of users on married dating site said they are avoiding a divorce due to their financial situations. And 18 percent said divorce is “totally out of the question” because of financial constraints despite being in an unhappy marriage.

These statistics come as the cost of living and overall inflation remain elevated across the country. For the 12-month period ending in November, inflation stood at 3.1 percent, with many necessary costs like groceries and housing remaining unaffordable for American families.

As a result, many unhappy couples would rather delay any legal separation to continue putting food on the table, with 37 percent saying they stayed in their relationship over a year longer than they should have because of cost.

Many unhappy couples would rather delay any legal separation in order to continue putting food on the table, with 37 percent saying they stayed in their relationship over a year longer than they should have because of cost.

In 2019, the average divorce cost was $12,900, without taking into account child custody battles or changes in post-separation life. And with inflation, many Americans are likely dealing with a cost of more than $15,000 just to get out of their marriages.

In all, legal costs for a divorce typically take away roughly 10 percent of an estate’s value, meaning each party will usually be at least half poorer by the time the papers are finalized.

“The standard of living often decreases significantly for divorced couples since they are supporting two homes, and the research shows that women often suffer more in a heterosexual marriage,” licensed psychologist David Helfand told Newsweek.

While marriage breadwinners are hesitant about divorcing a spouse and then handing over a significant portion of their net income to a spouse for child support or alimony, those who have been stay-at-home parents are often equally as terrified to leave the financial safety of their marriage and begin working again, divorce experts say.

Because it’s more expensive to operate two households, many people find themselves unwilling to accept the financial burden being free from their marriage would put on them, leading to some unorthodox consequences.

“I have found that this pushes many couples to consider non-monogamy instead of divorce,” Helfland said. “If they can keep companionship with each other while exploring ways to be satisfied outside the marriage, it can be a win-win.”

While prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the financial concerns of divorce were largely concentrated among low-income Americans, Baron Analytics divorce financial analyst Patrick Baranowsky said this is no longer the case.

“While I traditionally got frequent calls from clients in the lower 25 percent of household income lamenting that they cannot afford to divorce, I now regularly get calls from people in the upper 25 percent of household income with the same concern,” Baranowsky told Newsweek.

“After so many years of low inflation and prosperity, even the upper-middle class perceives themselves to be struggling financially.”

Even divorce strategies are different as Americans are forced to accept the high rate of inflation on cost of living.

“My past focus was simply driving an improved settlement…get as much as they can,” Baranowsky said. “Now, more clients are asking for me to assess lifestyle impact…lose as little as possible.”

While divorce will never be a solely financial situation, with plenty of complex emotions and family factors at play, the economics around it will weigh heavy on those dealing with high cost of living.

Nico Shanel was a stay-at-home mom who hadn’t worked a traditional job for five years when she first started thinking about divorce.

“Divorce was off the table for a while because I did not have my own income or savings and my children have complex care needs,” Shanel told Newsweek. “I stayed longer to make sure my children were properly cared for and I had financial backing.

“Money gives you the power to seek freedom. So when you’re uncertain about finances, it’s easy to feel trapped in your situation.”

While others may pass judgment on those who stay in unhappy marriages for money reasons, it ends up being a deeply personal choice, said Jackie Pilossoph, founder of Divorced Girl Smiling.

“Many people just don’t want to go back to work so they weigh their options,” Pilossoph said. “Is it better to stay unhappy and lead separate lives with this man, or get divorced, have financial pressure and go back to work? No one should judge what someone decides to do. It’s a very personal decision.

“It’s sad because if people had more financial freedom, I think you’d see a lot more divorce.”