Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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New Year: Business of divorce gets a January boost

January 8, 2014

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The new year always brings that fresh-start urge, with lots of people resolving to snuff out cigarettes, jettison junk food and … dump the spouse?

Yes, as Kansas City’s WDAF reports, “New year signals divorce proceedings for many couples.” Anecdotally, anyway, and by some accounts backed up by statistics, divorce attorneys say interest in divorce matters peaks after the holiday season.

And while marriage and divorce rates waned post-recession, according to this graphic by Huffington Post, they appear to be leveling off.  Here’s a look at divorce and marriage rates by state, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the historical data might come in handy for a graphic accompanying your article.

Another news peg:  A new documentary about the business of divorce is making buzz this month.  Divorce Corp., with the tagline “Marriage is an institution.  Divorce is big business,” hits theaters on Jan. 10 and is based on a book of the same name which purports to expose the “shocking $50 billion a year U.S. family law industry.”   I’m not conversant with the film’s political or social agenda, so I’m not vouching for it, but there’s no doubt that a movie about such a pervasive emotional – and financial – hot button as divorce is going to make headlines, so you might want to look for local tie-ins.

CNBC in 2012 also did a project on the business of divorce – as it  points out, there are about 1 million legal splits each year and one point the CNBC piece makes is even more pertinent today – the recovery of the stock market is shifting the focus to the division of assets, vs. the divvying up of debt that may have been more common in recession-era divorce cases.  Talk with local attorneys, investment managers, accountants and judges about how the rising stock and housing markets may be complicating property settlements.  And here’s a sinister take from Forbes, which warns spouse to watch out for “sudden income deficit system” (i.e. the deliberate hiding of income by the more affluent partner) once the break-up begins.  What other tips and tricks, red flags and warning signs do advisers recommend watching out for?  Might make a good personal finance sidebar to any consumer pieces about divorce.

The special legal hassles of divorce for same-sex couples is another angle you might localize; couples can find themselves in legal limbo if they want to split but reside in a state that still doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, let alone same-sex divorce.  Here’s an article about a Texas supreme court case in the matter, for example, that explains some of the background issues.  I have a feeling that managing divorces among gay and lesbian couples is going to become a new specialty for attorneys and mediators.  And here’s a good backgrounder by a San Diego law firm which suggests a coming “gay divorce boom” as a percentage of those who finally got the legal right to marry find out that as is the case with all couples, not every marriage works out.  Why not outline the legal issues in your state related to same-sex marriage and perhaps profile lawyers who are among the vanguard in untangling the law?

What other professionals – counselors, real estate agents and the like – might have specialty practices that focus on the needs of divorcing couples?  And on a more frivolous note, USA Today says divorce parties are becoming more popular, even traveling ones to destinations like Las Vegas.  Here’s an article about a woman who branched out from wedding planning to divorce party planning, and websites like the DivorcePartyShowerStore.com are easy to come by, as well.  It’s a whole new industry entrepreneurs will be cashing in on.

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