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May 15, 2015

With the exception of abuse, divorce is a luxury. 

I was acutely aware of this over the past six or so months when my ex and I were getting along really well. We were solid co-parents and I remembered how much we have in common as people. I appreciated how hard it can be for kids to shuttle between two homes.

I also appreciated how it was thanks to sufficient funds -- no matter how tight they could be -- that afforded us the luxury of living separately. 

While I had no interest in re-connecting romatically, I sometime wondered if it was worth inflicting all the stress of on the kids to live apart. Sometimes I understood why people go Euro -- maintain long-term marriages while pursuing romantic interests separately. 

I'm not the only one to think this -- there has been plenty written about the fact that divorce rates correlate inversely with unemployment rates. In other words, for every 1 percent uptick in unemployment, divorce rates dip 1 percent. The poorer they are, the more they are willing to put up with their spouse -- even if trying finances makes marriage harder. 

During the recent recession, the NPR-Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than 20 percent of Americans who had been without work for more than a year claimed their close relationships suffered, and more than 30 percent said their financial difficulties have had a profound negative impact on their partners' health and well-being. 

None of this is surprising, as throughout history most people simply could not afford to divorce -- most especially women, who were likely critical to the family finances, but oft had little economic power. Today we do, and women file the majority of divorces, figures that are dramatically higher for college-educated women, of whom 90 percent are the divorce filers,  according to some statistics. In other words, when you feel broke, you stay, and when you feel like you have money in your pocket, and things get tough, you are more likely to leave. 

In this podcast my friend and Astoria, New York family lawyer Morghan Richardson called in to share her experience dealing with divorcing couples -- many of whom have no idea how much the process will cost ($44,000 on average, nationally!), much less the cost of running two households. Stay-at-home parents or a partner who chooses to not to be involved in the family finance are especially naive about this reality. 

Caller Alan can speak to the accessibility of divorce when there is plenty of money. His ex-wife stunned him when she asked to separate to pursue another relationship. She was a chemist with a master's degree and earned more than he did, and when she refused even a single session of marriage counseling, he had no choice but to agree to the split. Listen to find out what he thinks about marriage today ...