Clerking at Rice Law: by Blair Beaty

One of the great, albeit depressing, things about the practice of family law is that it is recession proof. According to the The Memphis News, divorces made up the largest percent of filings in 2011, followed by hospital liens and auto accident claims. In 2010, divorces made up the second largest category of filings. Although the growth in divorce filings was not as strong as the growth in hospital liens for 2011, divorce filings were the highest in both Circuit Court, with 2,015 divorce filings out of 7,069 total filings, and Chancery Court, with 660 divorce filings our of 2,180 total filings.

Another study, performed by 24/7 Wall St., analyzed a report by the U.S. Census Bureau which was based on marital patterns of Americans in 2009. The report, released in August 2011, listed Tennessee as the 9th state for highest divorce rates. They report showed a strong correlation between divorce and poverty.

Filing for Divorce in Germantown, TN

Some may say it is the stress of the economy that drives spouses to a breaking point. This makes some sense when we take into account that Tennessee has always been ranked among the poorest states, even before the economic crisis hit.

It could also be that Tennessee has made it easier for spouses to file for divorce on their own. Beginning on September 1 , 2011, Tennesseans without minor children or pension plans could file for uncontested divorces without the help of an attorney. Obviously, the availability of the new forms substantially decreases the cost for most people seeking a divorce. The low cost option may be driving people who had been avoiding divorce for financial reasons to come forward and file.

Or perhaps people, especially the younger generations, have formed new attitudes regarding marriage and see it as a semi-permanent situation where there is always a way out.

No matter what the cause, high divorce rates are a good thing in this business. More divorces means more profits, and more profits means harder working attorneys.

Don’t get me wrong- I don’t mean “good thing” in a “let’s make money at the expense of other people’s feelings” type way; quite the opposite, actually. In my experience at Rice Amundsen and Caperton, making things better is what it is all about. Clients come to us when they are going through one of the worst situations of their lives and I always feel, at the end of the day, that we have given them a “silver lining” to hold onto.

To end, the point I would like to make is that perhaps a high divorce rate isn’t something to be concerned with; perhaps it means that people are finally feeling empowered to choose to get out of unhealthy and toxic situations and just be happy.