Bad economy has an upside (maybe) — fewer divorces

As the national economy takes a downturn and homes become harder to sell, another measure of American life is on the decline in South Florida — divorce.

Almost 1,300 fewer divorces were filed in Florida's Miami-Dade County from January through May this year than in the same time period in 2007, a decrease of about 18 percent, according to Zoila Miranda, the court operations officer in charge of family filings.

The drop comes after five years in which the number of divorces each year was relatively constant. Filings for divorce ranged from 15,622 to 16,868 in the years from 2003 to 2007. From January through May 2008, 5,956 dissolutions were filed in Dade.

The trend is similar in neighboring Broward County, home to Fort Lauderdale. Clerks saw 390 fewer divorces filed from January to May, about 9 percent below last year's count.

Explanations for the trend are speculative, since there's no way to definitively track couples who consider divorce but opt to stay together. But Robert Jones, a Miami-Dade magistrate, thinks it's the economy, which could make it difficult for a divorcing couple to sell their home and divide the proceeds. He also says that some couples may not be able to afford legal costs.

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