Since the middle part of the twentieth century divorce rates in the UK, and across the world, have increased. Over time the family law legal system has been simplified and society has become more accepting of married couples separating. Some have criticised the simplification of divorce for it becoming too easy and making marriage less of a lifelong commitment while others believe it to be a positive step as it allows those in unhappy marriages to move on. While the numbers divorcing rose steeply from the mid-1900’s until the 1980’s it has since plateaued. Around thirty percent of first marriages now end in divorce while around fifty percent of total marriages end.
What will happen in the future? Will divorce rates increase, decrease or remain similar? And what are the factors that might contribute to this? There is no real answer to this but we can speculate. Below are some of the current trends that may influence the divorce rates of the future.
Age of Marriage
On average people are getting married later than ever before. The average age of marriage has increased significantly over the last thirty years with it having increased from twenty-three to thirty for women and from twenty-five to thirty-two for men since 1981. It could be suggested that this will have a positive impact on divorce rates in the future. People might be taking a more considered approach to marriage and not rushing into it, meaning they are less likely to enter into a marriage that doesn’t work out. Couples are often together for several years prior to tying the knot, meaning they might be more aware and more certain of the path they are choosing. Conversely, some might argue the opposite; that waiting to marry shows that the constitution of marriage is not as important to some people, and therefore means marriages are more likely to end.
Living Together before Marriage
The number of couples living together before getting married has increased hugely, with this figure reported to be around eighty percent. There are three main reasons why this might be the case. Marriage is more expensive than ever so people are saving up for marriage over a long period. Others are choosing to live together as a trial before deciding whether or not to get married. There is also the financial aspect of living with someone else rather than living alone. The divorce rate of those who live together before marriage is actually higher than for those who don’t. The theory of this is that some cohabiting couples “fall into marriage” because it seems like an obvious step, rather than it being something they choose as such. Does this mean this particular trend could contribute to a higher divorce rate? Not necessarily as it really depends on each couple’s reason for getting married. For those who feel they should marry rather than fully committing to it, for example where there is pressure from family members, then perhaps they are more likely to separate. For others, though, living together might have made them realise being together is what they really want and it has therefore led to marriage.
Another trend is that many have more relationships prior to the one with the person they end up marrying. This could have either a positive or negative impact on divorce rates. On one hand someone who has had a number of relationships might find it difficult to settle down with one person. It may show others what they want and what they don’t want from a relationship which could help them to make the right decisions.
It is difficult to predict divorce trends for the future. All of the above trends could have a positive impact on divorce rates in certain circumstances but could have a negative one in others. The likelihood is that divorce is unlikely to end but we are also unlikely to see the extreme rates of the 1980’s.
For family law advice in Reading visit the Reading Divorce Solicitors @ Penningtons Manches
Andrew Marshall ©