Is Divorce on the Rocks in New York?

Stephanie Seymour and Peter Brant went from calling each other all manner of nasty names to shopping around town for high-priced real estate, and that has the New York Post speculating that the housing market is tempting couples to forego the expensive divorce and work out their issues.

The Post brings us the flimsiest of flimsy trend stores with the obligatory two divorce lawyers and a marriage counselor who say that couples can’t afford to make one household into two. “These days, the negative financial consequences for couples to get divorced can really outweigh the limitations on their freedom,” said Joseph Cilona, a Manhattan psychologist who has counseled all of two clients who called off their divorces for monetary reasons. “It’s a different landscape out there since the economy has tanked.”

We decided to wade into the age-old question of whether additional financial pressures or the difficulty of selling a home in the current market has led couples to hold off on splitting, only to discover it’s a bit of a swamp. The number of divorces in New York State did, indeed, decline sharply in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available. Experts say that’s surprising, since usually divorce rates spike due to the financial stress, and that it could be because this time around it’s couples can’t sell their homes.

But, in the end, of course, the heart wants what it wants. “There’s an old joke,” said divorce lawyer Randall M. Kessler. “Why is a divorce so expensive? Because it’s worth it. Now it better really be worth it.”