Divorce Statistics 2008
Almost half of all marriages in
England and Wales will end in divorce if current trends
continue, the Office for National Statistics said
yesterday. The bleak forecast, coming after a report on
Wednesday showing the number of marriages in 2006 was the
lowest for 110 years, appeared to confirm a pattern of
correction on divorce from National
The number of divorces in England and Wales has fallen to a
29-year low, government figures showed today.
This was the third year in succession that the number fell,
and followed a drop of 6.5% between 2005 and 2006.
The divorce rate also hit its lowest level for 22 years:
12.2 divorces for every thousand married couples. It had fallen
by 7% between 2005 and 2006.
Andrea McLaren, the head of the London Matrimonial Practice
division of chartered accountants Grant Thornton's, said: "The
number of high-profile, big-money divorce cases seen through
the courts recently, combined with an increasing number of
couples cohabiting, could be the key factors behind the lowest
divorce rate in England and Wales in the last 22 years.
Family lawyers suggested the drop could be down to record
divorce settlements deterring people from breaking up, or from
getting married in the first place.
Last year 132,562 couples divorced - the least since 1977
when there were 129,053 divorces, according to the Office for
National Statistics (ONS).
"These high-profile cases could be acting as a deterrent to
both those considering leaping into marriage and [those]
contemplating divorce - particularly given the high financial
payouts handed out by the UK courts."
Julian Lipson, a partner in the family law team at Withers
LLP, added: "Recent headline-grabbing, multi-million pound
divorces have made many potential spouses, particularly the
wealthier ones, more hesitant to tie the knot and there has
been an exponential rise in the number of pre-nuptial contracts
we are seeing, where couples of unequal wealth do decide to
The falling number of divorces mirrors the decline in
marriage over the past decade. The marriage rate in England and
Wales in 2005 fell to its lowest level since records began in
The highest divorce rate was found among people in their
late 20s, with 26 divorces per thousand married men aged 25-29
and 27.3 per thousand women in the same age group.
But the average age of people divorcing was higher: 40.9
years for women and 43.4 for men.
The number of second-time divorcees has doubled in the last
25 years. Last year they constituted one-fifth of divorcees,
compared with one-tenth in 1981.
The average duration of failed marriages remained unchanged
from the previous year at 11.6 years.
The number of divorces in Scotland rose by nearly 20% from
10,940 in 2005 to 13,014 last year. The ONS said the sharp rise
could be due to reduced periods couples are required to be
separated before divorce. Under the Family Law (Scotland) Act
2006, couples who mutually agree can divorce after a year apart
instead of two. Contested cases can go ahead after two years
rather than five.
In Northern Ireland the number of divorces rose by 8.6% to
2,565 last year, compared with 2,362 in 2005.
More than two-thirds of divorces were granted to wives and
in more than half these cases the husband's behaviour was
proven to have been unreasonable.
The fall in divorces in England and Wales was set against
rising numbers in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Across the UK,
the number fell by 4.5% to 148,141, compared with 155,052 in