The Investigators

Nov 16, 2011 11:59 PM

'Digging Out' after divorce

TUCSON -- Roughly half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. This is when couples find out it costs more to get out of a marriage than it does to get into one.
"Digging out" from this life-changing event can take the rest of your life.

Camille Coyle's making a comeback from divorce. She scrambled to find work after her marriage broke up several years ago, finally landing a job at a retirement planning firm in midtown. Her life is different than it once was.

Camille said, "It was huge. I mean there was a big difference, of course, with one income versus two. It was difficult, it was very difficult. And having to make all those decisions on your own."

Camille's attorney is Kathleen McCarthy. She said the down economy has some of her other clients digging out of financial holes deeper than they'd ever imagined.

McCarthy cited, "People who, at the beginning of this great recession as we call it, they'd come into my office, they might be millionaires a couple of times over. Within 6 months after October of 2008, nothing, declaring bankruptcy."

McCarthy said that's the real rub about divorce, especially during a recession. Assets are split, and payments to spouses and children are set for years to come.
Suddenly, property values deflate or perhaps the 'ex' loses their job or business. Then overnight the money and other assets are gone.

Attorney McCarthy told us, "I think it's consigned an entire generation of people who are getting divorced, and there's a lot of people getting divorced, to poverty."

"The person who had the skills, who ran the business, they'll recover. But the other person's never going to see the benefit of that. And sometimes you see that in 20, 30-year marriages and it can be a tremendous inequity."

One point to note: spousal support payments don't disappear due to hardship. And that's put countless former couples in a tight financial squeeze. And some former couples have become business partners out of necessity, clinging to assets like homes and businesses -- hoping to split them later, when times are better.

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