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Recovery continuing, Cupid disappointed again

March 20, 2015

Each year, James Cunningham, family law attorney and adjunct professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, taunts his students with this question:

"Are there more marriage licenses or divorce cases filed on Valentine's Day?"

While topics dealing with the legal and financial fallout of relationships that have gone awry are the standard fare of Family Law, "students are disappointed to hear that couples actually break up around what is supposed to be the most romantic time of year."

Last year divorce filings edged out marriage licenses over Valentine's Day, reports the attorney that follows these things, suggesting this may be a sign the recession is over. This year it was a runaway, with couples seeking to dissolve their marriage thumping those taking out marriage licenses. So this means the recovery in Michigan continuing?

Says Cunningham, "for several years in a row, the number of couples seeking to marry was about the same as those seeking to divorce." But in 2011, divorces came out ahead, 36 to 48. This year was a lopsided victory for divorce filings, 43 marriage licenses to 63 divorce complaints. Divorce the unlikely, but clear winner.

So why is this anything other than disappointing news for romantics?

It's anecdotal, of course, but it is one more encouraging sign that the worst of the recession is over and a recovery is underway.

Cunningham has been following this unlikely statistic for years. Historically, when the economy is doing well, or at least improving, you see higher divorce rates. People are optimistic about their future and are willing, and can afford to start over. But surveys have been pretty consistent that divorces have been dipping right along with the economy, starting even before the meltdown of 2008.

Caseload reports published by the Michigan Supreme Court appear to confirm this: divorce filings in Oakland County fell steadily from 2005 through 2009, but have been inching up the last three years approaching the number of filings not seen since 2004. (Oakland is the second busiest circuit in Michigan, exceeded only by Wayne County (Detroit).)

Cunningham's interest in the subject is more than just academic. In private practice for over 30 years, he is consistently rated as one of the top domestic relations lawyers in the state. He is a past-president of the Oakland County Bar Association and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Michigan chapter, and organization comprised of the nation's top family attorneys.

So what about the increase in marriage licenses? "Hope doth spring eternal" says Cunningham.

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