Divorce rates in England and Wales now almost 120,000


Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a 4.9% rise in the number of divorces in England and Wales - the first annual increase for 8 years.

In 2010 there were 119,589 divorces, compared with the previous year's total of 113,949.

The difficult UK economy following the recession was cited by the ONS and other experts as one reason for the increase.

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"The figures show that divorce rates continued their downward trend during 2008 and 2009 but increased in 2010," the report said.

"This could be consistent with the theory that recession is associated with an increased risk of divorce, but with a delayed impact."

Emma Pearmaine, Divorce Lawyer at Simpson Millar LLP noted a historical trend. "Shortly after the recession of the early 90s, the rate of divorce was significantly higher than during the actual downturn," Emma said.

"A couple on the verge of divorce might wait to see if the value of their assets increase once the economic recovery is underway. And a decree absolute is sometimes only granted long after separation."

When the rate last rose in 2003, there were 153,065 divorces, a rise from 147,735 in 2002.

The ONS added that the number of 2010 divorces was highest among men and women aged 40 to 44.

The report said 70% of 2010 divorces involved couples who were both in their first marriage. Of the rest, at least one partner had been widowed or previously divorced.

Almost 70% of decrees were granted to the wife, with unreasonable behaviour by the husband as the "fact proven" in 55% of cases brought by the wife. The same by the wife was the cause in 35% of claims by the husband.

50% of couples who divorced in 2010 had at least 1 child aged under 16 living with the family.

33% of 1995 marriages had ended in divorce before their 15th anniversary, compared to around a fifth of 1970 marriages failing within 15 years.

There was also a 2010 increase in civil partnership dissolutions, a fact which the ONS put down to their relatively new status and the increasing numbers of people entering such partnerships.

Across the whole UK, the number of divorces rose by 4.5% to 132,223 in 2010 from 126,496. The number of divorces in Scotland fell by 3.2%, while in Northern Ireland it increased by 20%.

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