Philadelphia Couples Have Trouble Divorcing Because Of Money Issues

There was a rise in divorce applications following the 2020 holiday season — but not as much of one as expected, considering many Pennsylvania residents had been cooped up together for the duration of the season. Generally, many people wait out the holidays to apply for divorce in February or March, when the bank account is fuller. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, the money just isn’t there. And many impoverished state residents are paying a different price.

A 2019 survey conducted by Martindale-Nolo Research found that the average cost of divorce is $12,900. More than you expected? Well, it’s more than most Americans can afford. The cost goes down when an attorney guides the couple through the motions, but not everyone can afford one of those, either.

A recent Harvard Law School Study found that many people are trapped in loveless marriages because of the costs associated with divorce. Pro bono help is sorely needed, but there aren’t enough volunteers to fill the gap.

The study, which was published in PNAS, was conducted in Philadelphia County and found that pro bono help was more likely the longer a couple stays married.

Lead researcher Jim Greiner, Hon. S. William Green Professor of Public Law at Harvard Law School and Access to Justice Lab faculty director, said, “There is generally understood to be a constitutional right to a marriage, and a constitutional right to end your marriage. The Supreme Court has recognized the fact that divorce is one of the only legal contracts that the parties themselves cannot end without anybody else’s approval.”

And it’s that approval that costs money, even when both parties agree on terms.

Greiner said, “We asked folks why they didn’t want to be married anymore. Sometimes, someone had a single asset, such as a house, that they wanted to ensure wasn’t inherited by a person they had been separated from for 10 or 12 years.”