Should You Intentionally Delay Your Divorce Until the Economy Recovers?

Putting off divorce for financial reasons has its pros and cons

A spouse looks over divorce paperwork.


It can be emotionally difficult to consider getting divorced. Taking the next steps can be even harder in the midst of a struggling economy, or if you're dealing with an unstable financial situation.

If you’ve lost your job, are working fewer hours, or you’ve faced a pay cut, you might consider intentionally delaying your divorce until the economy recovers. Here’s what you should think about when it comes to divorcing during an economic downturn.

Key Takeaways

  • Divorce can take a huge financial toll on your family and finances, especially amid an economy that hasn’t recovered yet.
  • If you can’t afford legal representation, you have options for reduced costs or even free help.
  • If you don’t have any assets or children with your spouse, you can file for an uncontested divorce.

Can You or Your Spouse Afford Support Payments?

If you or your partner has lost a job and can’t afford spousal or child support payments, divorce may be out of the question.

“Sometimes it might benefit a party to get divorced while out of work to reduce or limit exposure to certain costs, like possibly reduc[ing] child support financial obligations,” Leslie H. Tayne, founder of New York-based Tayne Law, told The Balance by email. “Depending on the side you’re on, it could be worth waiting until their financial situation improves to get divorced."


Parents who received child support got a median payment of $3,328 per year in 2017. Parents who received regular child support got a median payment of $4,431 per year in 2017.

If you're the person with the reduced income, but don't expect to be the custodial parent, you might want to see if you can discuss lowered child-support payments with your spouse.

“See if the matter can be resolved informally without litigation,” Tayne said. “It may be beneficial to first reach out directly to the support recipient to see if they are willing to agree to a reduction."

Has the Value of a Business Dropped?

“Divorce can significantly impact a business, especially if both parties work and are involved in the business,” Tayne said.

Unless you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that protects your business, it's most likely something you and your spouse will have to figure out how to divide.

Tayne said every divorce is unique when it comes to business ownership, state laws, business types, and the relationship. The situation will also be affected by whether one spouse owns a business, or if both spouses equally own the business. These relationships can have a major impact on the result of divorce and subsequent payouts. If possible, you may want to lock in a prenuptial agreement to guard against such problems later.

“Prenups are the least expensive, quickest, and easiest way to protect your small business in the event of a divorce,” Tayne said. “You can also consider a postnup or other agreements that can be referred to in the event of divorce.”

Because they’re written contracts, prenups and postnups can take a lot of ambiguity out of business ownership settlements. But if you don’t have one, consider that a down economy means that the value of the company may have dropped, too. If a spouse needs to sell their company, you might not get as big a payout as you would if the economy was booming.

Is Your Home Underwater?

If you and your spouse are divorcing and selling your home, the housing market matters to your eventual cash-out.

“Variations in the housing and labor markets may change some couples’ choice to get divorced due to financial instability making it harder to sell their home, divide assets, or support two households,” Tayne said. “If you’re getting divorced and own a house with your ex, have a discussion with them about your real estate goals.”

Your goals will determine what you can do in the short and long term. For instance, if your home is worth less than it was when you bought it, a situation known as your mortgage being “underwater,” you could hold onto it until the value of your home goes up.

But if you or your spouse is leaving the home, then you’ll likely be dealing with two house payments, and that might not be sustainable if you're already having financial difficulties. You may also think about continuing to live with your ex after the divorce until you’re both ready to put the home on the market. There are many options—choosing the right one depends on your needs and what you’re comfortable with.

“Consider contacting a Realtor for their input who can be neutral and give you fair and honest answers, and one who has experience selling for divorcing couples, as well,” Tayne said. “While nobody wants to leave money on the table, some couples wish to part ways as quickly as possible after a divorce and don’t want to wait for their share of the home’s selling price.”

Can You Afford a Divorce Attorney?

The cost of having reputable and responsible representation isn’t cheap. Nearly 70% of people who hired a divorce attorney paid the attorney at least $200 an hour, and the average cost of legal fees for a divorce where attorneys handle everything was $11,300, according to a 2019 survey conducted by legal site


Although costs of divorce are often high, there are a lot of inexpensive and sometimes free resources—if you qualify. Contact the Legal Aid Society in your county to find out if a pro bono attorney can work for you, or if they can refer you to another organization that can help.

“You may be able to get a court-appointed attorney if custody [or] visitation issues are included in your divorce and you truly have a limited income,” Tayne said.

If you aren't able to get a court-appointed attorney and you're eligible for spousal support after the divorce, you can petition the court and get your spouse to cover any reasonable legal costs.

Is DIY Worth It?

For some couples with limited assets and no children, you may not need to go through an arduous divorce proceeding. In fact, you might be able to complete it all online.

There are courts that offer uncontested divorce programs on their websites. Keep in mind that unless you can prove you have financial hardship, you'll still need to pay any applicable court filing fees.

Each state has its own requirements to qualify for an uncontested divorce. Before you apply, make sure you’re eligible in your state and find out about relevant fees.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it financially beneficial to get divorced?

Although divorce can be extremely costly, and it is usually more expensive to live on your own, there can be financial benefits to getting divorced. You'll have total control over your own financial decisions, including how much you want to save, and where you want to invest your money. If you and your spouse have similar incomes, depending on the state you live in, you might actually pay less in taxes. If there is only one custodial parent, you might be able to get more money in college financial aid, because only the parent with custody has to put down their financial information.

How do people afford to live after a divorce?

Although your costs can go up and you won't have a second income to rely on, there are some ways to make ends meet. You first want a realistic picture of how much money you'll have coming in each month, including any money you'll be receiving from your spouse. Then, you'll want to put together a budget based on that, focusing on making sure you can pay for all of your needs and your child's needs, if you have one. If you're still in the middle of the divorce process, make sure you and your lawyer have accounted for all the assets, including retirement and business assets, so that everything is distributed equitably.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The Census Bureau. "The Regular Receipt of Child Support: 2017."

  2. "How Much Will My Divorce Cost and How Long Will It Take?"

  3. Arnold Smith Law. "Can I Make My Spouse Pay My Attorney’s Fees in Our Divorce?"

  4. PLM Family Law. "Financial Benefits of Divorce."

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