Divorce Rates England

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, thoughFree Web Content, 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 ©

Parenting after parting courses from Resolution

Resolution run a course called Parenting After Parting for parents who are going to divorce or separate to help them deal better with parenting matters during and after the divorce.

The course covers the following areas:

  • What to say to children about divorce or separation
  • How children are effected when parents split up
  • Ways to help children cope with the divorce
  • Information on placing your child first in the process
  • How to establish a parenting relationship after divorce

The courses are running in a number of locations across England including:





There is more information on the Resolution website here:


Fathers matter – Why a victory for fathers is a victory for children

Interesting article over at the Daily Telegraph about fathers and children post divorce. Although Cristina Odone is not divorced herself she does sum up her view well in her closing paragraph.

“…Divorce is ugly, and its scars long-lasting. As the child of divorced parents, it took me until I was in my 40s to overcome my phobia of marriage: I knew all too well the pain of break-up. But if children continue to have access to both parents – even if this has to be legally enforced – they have a chance of surviving the emotional upheaval. The government finally agrees….”


What Divorce and Marriage Trends Tell Us.

To many marriage should still form the bedrock of a traditional family life and therefore in turn is key to a stable and settled society. Marriage in the UK is often seen as an institution that is in crisis following the decline of widespread religious followings and the liberalisation of divorce laws and procedures, and as a result the topic has become a political fighting ground. But what do the statistics actually tell us about how our society is changing.


The headline figure that most people tend to look at when reviewing marriage statistics is how many ‘x’ thousand of individuals have married in the last year.  The latest figures we have at our disposal from the Office for National Statistics for England and Wales are for the year 2009 and these show that marriages fell by 1,500 on the previous year to 231,490 – a drop of 0.64%.   However as the pool of available and prospective marriage candidates will never be the same from one year to the next the more telling metric to analyze is the proportion of unmarried individuals that wed in that period.  Interestingly, this figure was down more significantly, in line with the longer term trends, with drops of 2.29% and 2.04% for men and women respectively.  What’s more, this rate is now at its lowest level on record for both sexes.

For fans of marriage this does seem to create rather a gloomy picture as it not only tells us that the sheer number of marriages taking place is dropping but as populations increase that the pool of unmarried people is, by extension, increasing (as the slightly lower number of marriages accounts for an even lower proportion of unmarried couples).

That said, by looking at some of the other clues that are available there might be solace on offer. The same set of data also indicates that the average age at which people choose to marry (both in general and for the first time) has risen and so it may actually be inferred from the data taken as a whole that people are taking the sanctity of marriage more seriously and waiting until they are more certain about the commitment before getting wed. The fact that the number of cohabiting couples has also risen may additionally imply that the delay is in part a result of a contentedness to cohabit, possible under the misconception that this affords the couple some legal status, such as the mythical common-law marriage.


Since 2004, both the total number of couples divorcing and, more significantly, the percentage of married couples that that accounts for, has been steadily falling.  In 2009 the total number of divorces hit its lowest point since 1973 at 113,949, but crucially this cannot be solely attributed to a fall in the number of people getting or being married in the first place; as a proportion of those married the total only accounted for 10.5% – a 0.7 (or 6.25%) reduction on the previous year and the lowest proportion since 1977.  So, in short, despite the fact that fewer people are getting married, even fewer and now divorcing.

The problem in assessing what this is telling us about the longer term trends in society is that, to a greater or lesser extent these figures may be affected by legacy issues from years or decades ago. As seen in the divorce boom of the 70s and early 80s, where on average the length of a marriage which would lead to divorce hovered around 10 to 12 years, the easing of the barriers to divorce allowed a rush of divorces for couples that may have taken the action in previous decades had the options been there.

The average length of a marriage which leads to divorce now in the UK has stabilised around 11.5 years so those couples who are divorcing now may again on the whole be telling us more about those legacy issues than the strength of marriages commencing now. Taking into account the falling divorce rate (per married couple), along with the aforementioned slight decline in marriage rates and the increasing average age of marrying individuals, it may add support to the inference that the commitment of marriage is being taken more seriously and individuals are waiting until there are ready and mature enough to marry; perhaps hinting that new marriages taking place now will ultimately lead to even lower divorce rates in the future.

These figures are only scratching the surface and to get a better understanding of the longer term trends we may need to analyse separately the outcomes of marriages which began across successive years, not to mention across the different nations of the UK.

Whatever, the future holds, there is no doubt that marriage and divorce remain contentious and political issues. However they are also major transitional life events for those involved at a personal level, and when divorce is on the horizon individuals should always seek reliable advice such as Divorce Solicitors London.

© Stuart Mitchell 2011