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Maryland study: High-income-earner divorces rise in tough times

Recently, a sociologist from the University of Maryland conducted some interesting research which suggests a connection between the rate of divorce and the collapse of the real estate market. Although economic stress has actually made American marriages a little more stable overall, according to the sociologist's research, educated people with at least a college education, or high income earners, who lived in the states with the highest rates of foreclosures, saw a rise in divorce rates.

In fact, he believes that we may now see a definite uptick in divorce rates for high income earners based on pent-up demand, as revealed by merely plotting the term "divorce lawyer" on a Google search from 2004 to 2011 on a chart. The findings showed a clear spike in searches starting in 2010, a spike that does not show any signs of stopping.

When it comes to unemployment, the research suggests that joblessness has had no noticeable effect on the rate of divorce. Poorer people who have tended to marry at lower rates still get divorced at higher rates than everyone else. There's been no real statistical change on that front. But high income earners and those that could afford to buy a home during the latest housing bubble appear to be more likely to seek a divorce at the present time.

High income earners are more likely than others to have acquired substantial marital property which is subject to equitable division in a Maryland divorce. That doesn't mean it is split 50-50. Rather, it means that either the divorcing parties must agree on how to split the property or that a court will do it.

In Maryland, any assets acquired the marriage are considered "marital property." Houses and cars fall into this category. So do such things as pensions, retirement savings in their various forms and any other savings the couple may have in the accrued. Excluded from marital property are individual debts, gifts, or inheritances and assets excluded by agreement.

Source: New York Magazine, "Do the rich get more recession divorces?," Lisa Miller, Aug. 16, 2012

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