Recession 'caused rise in divorces'
The financial woes that swept the country as a result of the recession may have led to more couples getting divorced, a report suggests.
Between 2003 and 2009 there was a general downward trend in the number of divorces in England and Wales, but in 2010 the number of marital break-ups rose by 4.9%, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The ONS said that the rise could be associated with the 2008/9 recession.
" One theory suggests that recession could contribute to a rise in partnership break-ups because of increased financial strain, changes in employment and related lifestyle changes," the report states.
The ONS figures also show a slight rise in the number of divorces in 2012.
In 2011, 1 17,558 couples decided to go their separate ways and this rose to 118,140 in 2012.
The report adds: "Recent trends could be consistent with the theory that recession is associated with an increased risk of divorce, but with a delayed impact .
"This perhaps reflects a couple's wait for an economic recovery to lift the value of their assets or the time lag between separation and obtaining a decree absolute."
Estimates suggest that 42% of marriages end in divorce, the report states.
The ONS said a third of marriages are expected to end in divorce before the couple reach their 20th wedding anniversary.
And the average marriage is expected to last for 32 years.
In 2012, the median length of time that couples stayed married before officially separating was 11 and a half years.
The statistics also show a rise in double-divorcees.
In 1980 just one in ten men and women who divorced also had their previous marriage end in divorce. This figure rose to almost one in five by 2012, the ONS said.
Almost 16,000 marriages ended in 2012 because of adultery.
In 2012, the mean age of a divorcee was 44.7 for men and 42.2 for women.
The ONS said that the mean age for divorce has been steadily rising since the mid-1980s, coinciding with a rise in the age at which people wed.
Provisional marriage statistics suggest that in 2011 the average age for men to marry was 36.3 and 33.8 for women.
Marilyn Stowe, the senior partner at Stowe Family Law, said: "I believe the economic situation, with the UK falling in and out of recession, has played a key role: a greater number of businesses go into liquidation when a country emerges from recession, and in my experience this principle applies to marriages too.
"Couples will struggle through times of adversity as best they can, but eventually find that despite their best efforts, they simply can't go on any longer."
Vicki McLynn, partner at law firm Pannone, added: "The fact that there has been a slight increase could be attributed to couples believing that they can finally afford to divorce now the recession appears to be coming an end.
"Commonly, they feel that in a healthier economy, they may be more likely to find jobs and financial security to sustain them after they separate."
Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of relationship charity Relate, said: "We are saddened by the news that the number of divorces has risen slightly in 2012, especially as they had been in decline for the past few years.
"What matters to us is the quality of a relationship, rather than status. Ultimately, people's happiness and wellbeing is of paramount importance and strong couple relationships are proven to be an important part of that."
Family justice minister Simon Hughes has called on couples to use mediation to resolve the issues around divorce and separation, such as disputes over finances and children, instead of battling it out in court.
Mr Hughes said: "Mediation works.
"We are committed to making sure that more people make use of it rather than go through the confrontational and stressful experience of going to court.
"These figures show thousands of people are sadly still divorcing each year.
"We want them to do it in the least damaging way for everyone involved, especially children.
"That is why we want them to use the excellent mediation services available to agree a way forward, rather than have one forced upon them."