The home mortgage crisis in the United States has spawned problems in the mortgage, real estate and banking industries, and many consumers are now facing mortgage payment increases in the coming months that could cause the number of home foreclosures to climb even higher. And all of those financial woes may be spawning another problem as well -- an increase in divorces, experts say.
“Historically the three most likely reasons for foreclosure problems are: loss of job, loss of health and loss of spouse. On top of that, these days, escalating mortgage payments are exacerbating the divorce problem," Nicholas Retsinas,
director of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, said.
While the Harvard housing expert said it's too soon for a definitive study linking divorce to the country’s recent foreclosure woes, Scott Daniels,
an Ocala, Fla. Realtor®, doesn’t need a study to tell him what he already knows -- the mortgage industry crisis is causing an increase in the number of couples who are getting divorced.
"In the last three months, we have accepted five listings which are divorce sales. In each instance, it’s due to the obligation of meeting their mortgage payments,” he wrote in a blog he posts regularly on the Internet. “Faced with pressure, these couples are blaming one another! Rather than attempt to work together to resolve the problem, they find it easier to separate. They each have in common the same exact problem: No one is able to make a decision on what price to sell for! "
Daniels, of Florida List for Less Realty, said financial woes caused by variable mortgage rates "are really straining to a relationship. When times are good, people are happy. They love and laugh in unison. When the world is bad, they get ugly with each other. Human nature is funny that way."
Daniels thinks once statistics between the mortgage rates and divorce rates are compiled, the public will see a national trend. “It’s a trend that will continue as long as real estate prices spiral down. Many couples can’t face the reality of mounting bills, higher mortgage payments and decide it’s better to part. As we move forward this trend is happening at an alarming rate leading to foreclosures,” he maintains.
In response to his blog, Daniels said he received 50 to 60 replies from Realtors® around the country who agreed with his assessment that the mortgage problems are leading to more and more foreclosures -- and more and more divorces.
In 2002, when the latest statistics were available, Legalzoom.com
, ranked Nevada as the number one state in the nation for divorce. Arkansas ranked second, and Wyoming ranked third with 5.4. In cities, Reno, Nev., took top honors with the most divorces, with Las Vegas and Evansville, Ind., following behind.
While there are no studies linking foreclosure to divorce rates, Dr. Frank Fincham, director of Florida State University’s Family Institute, said, “Financial problems among couples are one of the main reasons for divorce in this country today.” A recent poll commissioned by divorce360.com
ranked financial issues as the number two reason that Americans divorce, with abuse ranked as number one.
Dr. Jeff Sherrill, a Columbus, Ohio, psychologist with Meers Inc
., said, "There is clear data on divorce and wealth....If you’re poor, your financial situation helps make marriage unstable. If you’re having trouble sustaining a stable life, it can result in divorce...” Randy Kessler
senior partner with Kessler, Schwarz & Solomiany family law attorneys in Atlanta, Ga., said the downturn in the housing market is definitely causing more stress for couples, even if they are getting divorced.
"For years Middle America thought it could get a divorce and use the equity in their home as a safety net, but there is no equity there is no equity today,” Kessler explained. “It used to be, when couples bought a house in five years it was worth more. And when people got divorced in those days they expected to be able to live for a while off the proceeds from the sale of the house....We do have a lot of people in trouble in this country because the value of their house decreased."
Still, despite the serious financial drawback to divorce, Kessler said, “If you want a divorce it doesn’t matter what it costs you. Before most people get a divorce they have thought about it long and hard,” he said.
Don Moore is a veteran newspaper editor and reporter who spent more than 40 years working at newspapers around Florida. He recently retired from the Port Charlotte, Fla., Sun-Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org