Breaking up is hard to do, but in a housing bust it can be well nigh impossible. With one in six homes worth less than the mortgage owed on it, couples on the skids are finding divorce plans scuttled by an inability to sell the marital home. And with job losses and precipitous declines in investments, partners are suddenly less able to afford to live separately, the New York Times reports.
In smoother economic waters, couples generally sell their homes and split the equity, or one buys out the other’s share. But more couples are finding they own homes that they can't unload—and that are too expensive for either party to maintain. “We used to fight about who gets to keep the house,” says a matrimonial lawyer. “Now we fight about who gets stuck with the dead cow.” The expense is keeping some couples together. “We’re basically forced to remain in a relationship after we’ve decided to end it,” says one would-be divorcée.