The good news: the economy is recovering, but does every silver lining have a cloud? According to a newly released study in Population Research and Policy Review, as the economy is improving, divorce rates are rising.
“This is consistent from what we know from previous research and previous recessions,” said Christine Percheski, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. “Fewer people get divorced during a recession because the cost of divorce is expensive and so is the cost of setting up a new household.”
Percheski said that once economic conditions improve, there is a pent up demand for divorce because people have postponed their divorce.
“They end up having the divorce they would have had a year or two earlier,” Percheski said.
The recent study doesn’t really faze divorce attorney, Mark Schondorf. He started his Northfield-based law practice in 2012, and said he never knew what it was like to practice divorce law in a good economy.
“All I knew was people were still looking for good attorneys,” said Schondorf, who spent a year working for the large Chicago-based divorce firm, Berger Schatz before going out on his own. “I don’t need to have 50 or 60 clients to make a living. Mine is a small, manageable practice and I can give my clients the attention they need.”
A graduate of Georgetown University with a degree in finance, Schondorf holds a law degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
Before working for Berger Schatz, he spent four years in private practice with a concentration in employment law, as well as business and real estate litigation.
“Divorce always interested me,” said Schondorf, who admits his phone is ringing a lot more than it did last year, most likely because of the improved economy. “It’s got a mix of everything I like about being a lawyer. I’m helping people, there is negotiation, litigation, putting deals together, and trial work at times.”
Schondorf said that his finance degree and his past business experience gives him an edge when it comes to understanding the financial aspect of divorce.
“A lot of people who go into family law don’t understand tax returns and numbers and the division of assets,” he said. “If there is a valuation problem and your attorney doesn’t understand what the accountant is saying, you could be leaving millions of dollars on the table.”
Louis Walls of Chicago is a client of Schondorf’s and said his financial background was a factor in his decision to hire the attorney.
“There is some real estate and pensions involved and when I sat down with Mark, I found him to be intelligent and knowledgeable,” Walls said.
“I hired Mark to review the division of my assets and make sure the percentages were equitable,” said client, Sue Naponiello of Chicago. “He overlooked my entire agreement and made a few changes that made it more fair.”
Schondorf said his business is “a mix,” meaning some of his cases go to trial and some are settled either by him, or through mediation.
“Divorce is the most traumatic thing that can occur in someone’s life, and to get them out of a bad situation – one that is causing them great consternation – it’s an honor to be a part of that process,” he said.
“No one wins in divorce,” Naponiello said. “But it was important for me to have someone like Mark – knowledgeable and sharp – to look at the final agreement and say, ‘Yes, this is fair.’”