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Monday, February 14, 2011

Recession over? Ask Cupid

“Are there more marriage licenses or divorce cases filed on Valentine’s Day?”
 Professor Cunningham asks his students every year at this time.
James Cunningham
While topics dealing with the legal and financial fallout of relationships that go bad are the standard fare of Family Law, the course James P. Cunningham teaches as adjunct Professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills campus, “students are disappointed to hear that couples actually break up around what is supposed to be the most romantic time of year.”
Usually, says Cunningham, who has been tracking this for years, “you get about the same number of couples seeking to marry and those seeking to divorce.”
But last year, in Oakland County at least, things were dramatically different. On the last workday before Valentine’s Day and the day after (Valentine’s Day was on a Sunday in 2010), while  36 marriage licenses were issued by the Oakland County Clerk, more than the year before,  48 Complaints for Divorce were filed as well. Can this be good news for the romantic and heartbroken alike?
 “It’s antidotal, of course, but its one more encouraging sign that the worst of the recession is over in Michigan.”
 “Historically, when the economy is doing well, you see higher and higher divorce rates.  People are optimistic about their future and are willing, and can afford to start over.” And if it’s true that a rise in divorce filings is an ironic sign of an improving economy, even in the once beaten down Michigan, might it be the same nationwide?
“Studies have been consistent over the past several years that divorces have been dipping along with the economy”, says Cunningham, citing a 2008 survey of over 800 fellows of the   American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, (AAML) an organization comprised of the nation’s top matrimonial attorneys.
We may have bottomed out.
According to caseload reports published by the Michigan Supreme Court, divorce filings in Oakland County, which fell steadily from 2005 through 2008 increased by over 7% in 2009. 2010 saw filings inch up even a little more, exceeding over 5,000 for the first time since 2004. (Oakland is the second busiest circuit in Michigan, exceeded only by Wayne County (Detroit).)
Professor Cunningham’s interest in the subject is more than just academic. A partner in the Birmingham law firm of Williams, Williams, Rattner & Plunkett, he has specialized in family law for over 30 years. He is Past-President of the Michigan Chapter of the AAML.
So what about the increase in marriage licenses?
“Love is recession proof” says Cunningham.  248-642-0333.

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