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Northern Irish more forgiving of cheating spouse

More people in Northern Ireland are now willing to forgive their spouse's infidelity rather than seek a divorce, new research has claimed.

Break-ups which cite an extramarital affair as the primary cause have dropped to their lowest level in eight years, and have been overtaken by couples stating they have simply fallen out of love, a survey of solicitors found.

One of the reasons for the shift may be the growing number of high profile celebrities that have publicly accepted their partner being unfaithful, according to consultancy and accountancy firm Grant Thornton, which carried out the matrimonial survey.

Only 19% of lawyers in Northern Ireland viewed extramarital affairs as the top reason for divorce, with 29% claiming the main cause was couples growing apart.

Sally Longworth, partner at Grant Thornton's Forensic and Investigations services practice, offered a potential reason.

"The shift in the reasons for divorce is difficult to explain, although one potential influence could be the rise in the number of 'celebrities' that are very publicly accepting their spouse's infidelities," she said.

"Whatever the cause, it is interesting to note that it appears that more relationships than ever that are affected by infidelity are surviving."

The company's eighth annual survey, which questions solicitors across the UK, also suggested more resistance in Northern Ireland to extending legal rights afforded to married people to cohabiting couples.

A sizeable 83% of Northern Irish solicitors said they were against the move, compared with 60% throughout the UK.

Noting that the number of marriages was on the increase in Northern Ireland, Ms Longworth said conservative views relating to wedlock and relationships endures in the region.

"The solicitors we polled in Northern Ireland, of all the UK regions, were the most overwhelming against cohabiting couples being entitled to the legal rights afforded to those who are married," she said.

"Marriage in the six counties remains popular and there persists a perception that it should be recognised with legal rights not afforded to those in Northern Ireland in other relationship forms."

The survey said that solicitors believed that individuals were becoming more likely to conceal their assets during divorce proceedings.

It comes after a landmark court ruling in England that established that documents pertaining to a spouse's financial position which are obtained secretly, even when under the belief that information is being concealed, are inadmissible.

"There is widespread concern that these recent developments could unfairly strengthen the position of any spouse wishing to conceal assets which in turn could lead to settlements that are unfair," said Ms Longworth.

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