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“My husband and I have not been intimate for over a year,” Louise, an unhappily married woman tells Joe, a Maryland divorce lawyer, “and I want a divorce.”

“OK, any other woman in his life?” inquires Joe.

“No.”

“Hmmm, any domestic violence or threats?”

“No.”

“Then you’re going to have to move out of the house for a year before you can file a divorce complaint,” says Joe trying to push the box of tissues across his desk toward Louise unobtrusively.

“But we can’t afford that,” cries Louise reaching for the tissues, “There must be another way.”

Neighboring jurisdictions, DC and Virginia permit parties to be separated while living in the same house, but not Maryland.  In Maryland, spouses are required to live separate and apart under different roofs for one year if the both agree, and two years if they don’t.  This waiting period must occur before they can even file for divorce.  And the divorce might take a year or longer after that.  These are the no fault grounds.  Adultery and cruelty have no waiting period.

The purpose of this waiting period is to favor marriage over divorce and make sure the parties really, really want to be divorced and not married.  After all, sometimes people change their minds.  But the recession has forced many couples to live together in misery because they cannot afford to separate.

So Montgomery County Delegate Luiz Simmons, an attorney, will support legislation this year to add a new grounds for divorce in Maryland, according to this morning’s Frederick News Post.  If this law passes, couples who go a year without sex would be able to file for divorce.

Gregory Rodriguez has an interesting prediction in his Los Angeles Times column.

He notes a a recent survey by the Institute of Divorce Financial Analysts in which 68% of its members have seen clients who could not afford to get divorced because of recession-related financial problems.

“So even as most of us are looking forward to happier days of an economic recovery, there must be a number of Americans who are waiting patiently to be able to afford to experience the pain and suffering of divorce,” says Rodriguez.

“You’ve heard of the pent-up desire and aspiration that are released after times of war? That’s why we get such phenomena as baby booms. When this economic recovery finally arrives, prepare yourselves for a boom of an entirely different sort.”

It may not be a good idea to try to increase child support during a recession.  House Bill 1401 which would have increased Maryland Child Support Guidelines, for the first time in 20 years, did not make it out of committee.  The House Judiciary Committee plans do a “summer study” of the bill.

“We will reserve our comments for the court.”  – Lois Finkelstein in “NBA Star Bosh Bashed in Suit for Child Support” by Caryn Tamber of The Daily Record, March 26, 2009.

James J. Gross was interviewed by KMOX Radio on “Divorce in a Recession”, March 2, 2009.

“Are divorces going down in these hard times?”  The question came from a woman at one of the holiday parties upon learning I was a divorce lawyer.

I allowed as how many couples are opting to ride out a bad marriage because they can’t sell the house, or they can’t afford the lawyer fees, or their income won’t cover two households.

“But others,” I said, “find that now is just the right time to get rid of an unwanted spouse.”

“What others?” she inquired of me.

“Why wealthy husbands, for one, with businesses, stock, options and pensions down about 50%, may find this a good time to buy out their spouse for cash at these lower prices, expecting an eventual recovery.”

“And trophy wives, in the face of layoffs and rumors of layoffs, may decide the right time to leave is while their husbands are still employed.”

“I never thought of that,” she nodded, and wandered off to get some more punch.

Here is some good news for relationships during the recession.

According to Time.Com, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a study which correlated market conditions with Playboy centerfolds.

It found that men like fuller-figured women more in lean times than in boom times.

This is perfect because another APA study showed that when stressed, women liked to eat.

Bingo!