Lis and the Single Girl: The Economy of Divorce

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Single and fabulous? Well then this is the column for you!

Ever wish you had your own personal Carrie Bradshaw to answer your questions — not just about what to do if your boyfriend dumps you via text message — but serious issues that confront us? This special daily edition of “Lis on Law” will address topics that single women are faced with and that everybody wonders about — but no one has time to figure out.

Between work, working out, dating and maintaining a social life, it’s tough to find time to do much else. So, read up and prepare to be fully armed for brunch this weekend with your friends with some super conversation topics! Your pals will be amazed!

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Walking down the aisle as we stare into our soul mate’s eyes, we swear to love our partner “for richer or for poorer.” But for some couples, those sentiments didn’t take into account the volatile real estate market. Studies and recent articles have shown that as the housing market rises, so does the divorce rate. Recent trends emerging from major metropolitan cities like Manhattan demonstrate that many couples are starting to “buy low and divorce high.”

When starting out as newlyweds, couples often combine their incomes and assets into financial partnerships to buy homes when starting a life together. What we’re finding is that sometimes the strength and longevity of a marriage depends on the economics. It’s unsettling to regard marriage as a business proposal, but the 21st century virtually mandates that we consider prenups, real estate and other assets when combing two lives into one.

Michele Kleier, a real estate broker on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, personifies this philosophy. Ms. Kleier, like any good broker in the Big Apple, watches the market, particularly for one of her client’s who’s staked her life on its peak. The client continually checked in to determine what price she could obtain on any given day for her nine-room co-op building. As the housing market escalated, she planned to divorce her husband, sell the apartment and live off the proceeds. This former high-ranking fashion exec finally got her wish and sold her luxury apartment when real estate hit a high. Now the woman calls from her new pad in California, loving the weather and the distance from her ex-husband! “She felt she couldn’t walk out on him until she had the money,” quipped Kleier. “The real estate market allowed her to buy her freedom.”

It seems that sometimes women who are financially dependent on their hubbys (and vice versa) feel they have little choice but to remain in the relationship despite non-economic circumstances. But the tremendous gains in market appreciation provide the needed money to support both parties as singles. “The equity in real estate is one of the impetuses why there are so many divorces,” says Nancy Chemtob, a Manhattan divorce lawyer.

What’s the rationale behind this trend? Dr. Gary Becker, an economist who has studied and written about this phenomenon, concludes that those who make more money than expected are more vulnerable to divorce. Couples realize that they are less financially dependant on their significant other and might have chosen different spouses if they had more choices at the time. Yes, he’s talking about nabbing a trophy wife/husband and leaving the “starter” behind.

When dealing with the legal side of a split, the family home is often the greatest financial asset and subject to division according to your state’s property division law. “Real estate has become a language of emotional barter,” says psychologist Elyse Goldstein. You should know what percentage of the house belongs to you and whether the court would likely convey the house to you or your husband. Since every state is different, you need to consult the applicable law.

The traditionalist in me is bothered by the logistics. But the practical side in me understands that it’s harder for a couple to divorce if they’ll be left with a lower standard of living. Knowing both people can maintain their quality of life makes the decision to split a little bit easier. And so it goes, if you can’t be with the one you love, at least you can love the house you’re with.

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• How Real Estate Is Raising The Divorce Rate In New York

• Divorce and Real Estate

• New York Times (Registration Required)

• "MAYBE I’LL BE THERE TO SHARE THE LAND" (Until the Value goes up Enough and then it’s Splitsville.)

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The information contained in this Web site feature entitled “LIS ON LAW,” is provided as a service to visitors of, and does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney client relationship. FOX NEWS NETWORK, LLC makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site feature and its associated sites. Nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of your own counsel.

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Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. She is currently a professor of law at the New York Law School. Wiehl received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College in 1983 and received her Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Queensland in 1985. In addition, she earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1987. Lis is also the author of The 51% Minority — How Women Still Are Not Equal and What You Can Do About It. (Watch the Video) To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.