It is no big surprise to financial planners to learn that the divorce rate in this country is still at the 50 percent mark. In fact, it's been that way for decades now. What is, of course, more surprising is that the average cost of getting divorced (now, we're only talking average here) is around $20,000, according to Norwich Union. You know something, take a look at some of the fancy weddings today and it's about the same price.

Maybe everybody would be better off saving some $40,000 and not bothering with anything. Fortunately, there are more romantic people than there are unromantic so while every year hundreds of thousands of people get married, half of that number get divorced.

Okay, where is all that money going? Obviously, legal fees, maintenance of payments, setting up new homes, paying for children. Keep in mind that the newly divorced are generally divided into two categories of spending: those without children go to Club Med and those with children head for Disneyworld.

Also, if you are a financial planner, you might be aware of evidence suggesting that divorce is becoming decidedly more bitter. Why? Consider that there are a growing number of women who realize that their role in a marriage is valuable and therefore, can put a value tag on it. In short, women are demanding more of a family's assets.

I heard that last year in London, Shan Lambert, the wife of Harry Lambert, founder of the Adscene newspaper group, was awarded some $10 million in a divorce settlement. One of the judges on the case summed it all up this way: "There must be an end to the sterile assertion that the breadwinner's contribution weighs heavier than the homemaker's."

Of course, there are some who will argue that a divorce leads to a substantial decline in real income for women. Speaking from a personal standpoint, I'm not sure so about that.

One thing, though, is perfectly clear: most people who face divorce each year have a problem in paying for it. There are now loan services, which permit an individual to borrow a substantial amount. However, it comes with a rather high interest rate attached, but to many people, it may be their only option. The loan is offered as a facility from which funds can be drawn down as and when they are needed. There is no minimum drawdown. Repayments start only when the divorce is settled, or after two years, whichever comes first. And, there are no prepayment penalties. There is also no income minimums, which says that housewives (or house husbands, if you will) are able to apply for these loans.

So, what are the financial planners of today recommending? Many say that divorce is less expensive if the financial affairs are organized while the couple is still married. In other words, married people should not pool all their assets but should maintain separate bank accounts. Accordingly, it will be much easier to cope with when the split comes.

Just think of it. Get married on Sunday, set up separate accounts on Monday (who needs a honeymoon anyway?), and feel protected on Tuesday when you both decide on a divorce.

Hey, will somebody get Barry White to sing a song to these folks?

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