When does a bad economy make filing for divorce a dumb idea?

 Back in the good old days, when say, Bill Clinton was president, people used to actually have money in this country, and when they divorced they used to have assets to divvy up. In particular, they actually had equity in their homes and so when they decided to go their separate ways, they could sell the house and actually get money for it, and they would split the proceeds, and start the next chapter of their lives.
We are a long way from the good old days. A lot of couples are seriously struggling financially and bankruptcy filings have increased. And so, in the context of divorce, you may be looking around and asking yourself: The house? Equity? What equity? There’s no equity! What are you talking about Lawyer X?! There is only a monster mortgage and my husband’s lost his job. So who is going to have to pay that back? Me?!
And I would answer: With this foreclosure/economic mess that is going on, it very well could be if you or your spouse insist on filing for a divorce now – and you can’t find a buyer or get the bank to agree to some type of short sale or something, and if you want to avoid having a foreclosure on your credit report. I may even go further and say to you, that under these circumstances you mentioned, now might be a dumb time for you to file for divorce.
Here’s the thing: Usually the mortgage on a marital home is a joint debt, just like the equity is a joint asset even if title is in the name of only one spouse. So long as it was purchased during the marriage, there is a presumption that it is marital property. So, if your spouse is not able to repay it due to being unemployed (in an economy such as this!) and you are still gainfully employed, you may have to pay the mortgage, or risk having a foreclosure put on your credit report.
That may not even be all. If you have kids, you are probably going to have to pay child support, or eschew child support from an unemployed spouse, if not completely, then certainly at a significantly reduced rate depending on if he or she is bringing in income. (Yes, unemployment benefits can be tapped for child support too.) Even if the children live with you, you are technically going to be the only one “paying child support” if your spouse has absolutely no income. And god forbid, if the unemployed spouse somehow gets custody, you will have to pay the spouse child support, and maybe even spousal support – depending on the particular circumstances of your marriage.
If it is your spouse who wants the divorce and you don’t, it may be less expensive for you to fight it than to let it go through. Again, you have to weigh the circumstances in your particular case. You have to do the math before you even contact your lawyer. In the meantime, maybe you can try marriage counseling to try to keep the marriage in tact. Economic problems are notorious for putting undue strain on marriages. Maybe if your spouse is made aware that the situation is temporary, he or she may change their mind.
If you are the one who wants a divorce, you have to think about timing the divorce as being an important strategic move. This is strange for a divorce attorney to say, probably, but now might not be the best time for certain people to get divorced. But if you must do it, and there is no way you can abide this individual one more blessed day, one of the first thing you must do is put together the right team of professionals such as a good divorce lawyer, forensics experts, witnesses, etc., so that you can best protect your interests.
Think before you act.