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“Sometimes it’s about finding the least destructive holding pattern,” Mr. Epstein says.

This means the couple has to learn to operate in a neutral, cooled-off mental zone when around their kids. Since feelings of betrayal and hurt are so close to the surface, however, that’s easier said than done.

“We work with couples to compartmentalize those feelings for the time being so they can better work as a team [on finances and child-rearing],” he says. “This doesn’t have to completely control their lives.”

In the reality of this recession, however, even couples who both want a divorce can get stuck in a dead marriage.

Take Sheryl Schelin of Myrtle Beach, S.C. She and her estranged husband wanted to get a divorce two years ago but because of financially tough times that included job loss, they couldn’t afford to maintain separate residences — a prerequisite to file for divorce in that state, she says.

So, Ms. Schelin now lives with the couple’s 10-year-old daughter and her estranged husband lives with his new girlfriend and neither can completely move on emotionally.

“It’s totally draining,” she says, adding it feels like she’s in limbo, neither going backward or forward. “I want my maiden name back, but that’s not going to happen until the divorce goes through.”

Which will be next summer at the earliest, she says.

So, in the end, can anything good come out of this temporary drop in divorce rates? A permanent reduction, perhaps?

“I suspect that the fundamentals of human nature have not changed,” Mr. Plevy says. “The economy has changed, but not our personalities.”

He adds: “I think eventually we’ll reach the same levels as before the recession.”