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How inequality can increase the likelihood of divorce

When couples in Washington begin their marriage with a traditional arrangement in which the husband is the breadwinner while the wife earns less or stays at home, if there is later a change in the wife's status, the couple could be headed for divorce. A study by Swedish researchers found that when a wife begins making more money, the likelihood of divorce increases. This is not the case for couples who begin on a more even footing.

There are several reasons why this occurs. In some cases, a husband who is suddenly making less money may become resentful and controlling. In other cases, he may work fewer hours but take over none of the household duties that his wife no longer has as much time for.

Couples can take steps from the beginning of their marriage to make divorce less likely. It can be difficult to predict what kind of career opportunities they might have, but they can start from an agreement that each of them will have equal decision-making powers. Strong communication is also important. This means that the partner who has more household duties needs to communicate about what should be done while working spouses need to communicate about their schedules. Couples also need to make time for one another away from work, household duties and children.

Unfortunately, despite taking these steps, some marriages may still end in divorce. If the couple has had conflict over money, child care or power issues, they should try to avoid bringing that conflict into the divorce proceedings. It can be hard to set aside the emotions associated with these issues to negotiate property division and child custody, but couples might prefer a divorce agreement that they make with their attorneys over one created by a judge during litigation.

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