Can You Finally Afford a Divorce?

July 21, 2014

Sacramento Business Journal

Downey Brand partner, Mary Martinelli comments in a Sacramento Business Journal article on the recent increase in divorce cases related to improvements in the economy.

See full article below or view it online at the Sacramento Business Journal.

By Kathy Robertson Correspondent for the Sacramento Business Journal

As homeowners see their home equity slowly rise above water, some of them have decided it’s finally time to get a divorce.

Sacramento County divorce rates are well below those before the recession hit, but they’re beginning to climb once again — and some local attorneys are slammed with new business.

Family law is considered a bread-and-butter legal practice because more than half of marriages end in divorce, but the housing bust in Sacramento prompted some couples to stick it out a little longer for financial reasons.

Divorce rates in Sacramento dropped almost 20 percent from 2007 to 2013, but appear headed for a 3 percent rise this year, based on data from the first six months.

The county logged in 7,077 divorces in 2007; it’s on track for 5,876 in 2014. That’s up about 200, although local attorneys appear busy enough to move it far beyond that figure.

“2011, 2012 and 2013 were relatively slow, but at the end of last year, it went crazy,” said Mary Martinelli, a partner at Downey Brand LLP who specializes in family law. “We got 14 calls in one day for new cases — that’s huge for us, and we are turning cases away.”

Homes remain a major asset for couples and when the financing is upside down, banks are not so willing to do work outs, Martinelli said.

It can be pretty stressful to stay in a marriage, though. Domestic violence goes up.

Job loss complicates things in a number of ways. It puts further financial stress on the marriage — and the divorce — because spousal support may be set at a time when there’s no income coming in.

There are ways around some of these worries, however.

During times of trouble, the law does allow couples to divide the house or business later,” Martinelli said.

“I’m a good Catholic girl. I’m not advocating divorce but this may actually be a good time.”