PHOENIX — Experts say many American couples stayed together during the recession because they couldn’t afford to go their separate ways.

Now the improving economy could trigger a spike in divorces, which can be a nightmare as the April 17 tax deadline approaches.

The Roosevelt Institute found that states with a higher increase in unemployment saw larger drops in divorce rates between 2005 and 2009.

There’s evidence that the mild economic recovery of 2011 has led to a rebound of divorces and if the unemployment rate continues to fall that trend can be expected to continue.

Bill Brunson, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, said even after divorce, if an audit finds prior tax fraud during the marriage, both parties are on the hook for the full tax amount owed.

“Generally, that’s the case because both spouses benefited from that income,” he said.

But in certain circumstances a husband or wife may not have to pay tax, interest and penalties.

“The couple is no longer together and one spouse had no benefit or knowledge of the other spouse’s income, the IRS will work with them,” said Brunson.

The tax burden can be lifted if a former spouse can establish being the victim of abuse or domestic violence and did not challenge the tax returns truthfulness for fear of retaliation.

“You’ve got reasonable cause for the IRS to look at that and understand those are unique circumstances,” said Brunson.

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