Let’s stay together! Divorces are way down in Brooklyn

Let’s stay together! Divorces are way down in Brooklyn
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The hot new wedding song in Brooklyn should be “Happy Together.”

Divorce rates in the borough have dropped more than 25 percent since they peaked for the decade in 2007, and some say that there’s a uniquely Brooklyn reason for living like the famous Turtles song: all the cool people are doing it.

“There has been a shift in the culture with Brooklyn becoming the center of family life,” said Stacy Morrison, a Park Slope author who wrote the divorce memoir, “Falling Apart in One Piece.” She added that splits may be stigmatized in her neighborhood.

“You see the settled-down stroller-set everywhere from Red Hook to Greenpoint, so it can be difficult to explain why you got divorced.”

Kings County Court statistics back up Morrison’s claim of constant couple-sightings: there were 5,789 divorce filings last year, as opposed to 7,798 in 2007. That was the year we dubbed the borough Splitsville NYC, as break-ups had surged 30 percent since 2003.

But there’s more to the divorce drop than a feared social stigma. Just like some experts attributed the high mid-decade divorce rates to the economic boom, they say that the recent decline is due to the economic bust. Last year, the city’s unemployment rate reached more than 10 percent, which may deter some from splurging on divorce, which can be expensive. Dissatisfied spouses also fear that they can’t get by on a single income.

“Divorce rates go down because it’s not easy to maintain your own household in this tough economy,” said attorney Angela Scarlato, who has an office on Court Street between Remsen and Montague streets. “And legal fees are really expensive.”

Saul Edelstein, a legendary Brooklyn divorce attorney who has been in the game for nearly 50 years, was more blunt.

“It’s the economy, stupid!” he said. “It’s easier to stay together and live with your husband having a girlfriend on the side than selling your house for less than you paid for it and trying to find a new place in this horrible housing market.”

In addition, couples may be bonding more in tough times. A February study by the National Marriage Project at the University in Virginia concluded that the recession “deepened marital commitments” and delayed divorces.

Brooklyn’s divorce decline coincides with state figures: There were 10,000 fewer divorces filed in 2009 than in 2007, and New York’s 8.4 percent divorce rate is the third lowest in the country, according to a 2009 Census report.

These stats came as a surprise to opponents of the recently enacted no-fault law, which makes divorces easier because filers no longer have to prove that their spouses did them dirty.

Rather, people can just say that their relationship is broken beyond repair.

Critics said that the new rule would lead to increased divorce rates, but it seems as if the economy and social cues have a greater influence on the stats.

“Staying in a marriage just makes more sense these days,” Morrison said.

Brooklyn divorce rates have plummeted by more than 25 percent since 2007, which means more people may be like Sunset Park sweethearts Yu Lian Mei and hubby Xi Xiang Jiang. The pair have been married for 72 years.
Photo by Steve Solomonson