New research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that, for the first time in seven years, the number of couples divorcing is on the increase.
The rate has increased from 8.5 to 8.9 per thousand married people – reversing the downward trend since 2009.
The most common duration of a marriage is now 12 years, which is up slightly from 11.9 years in 2015 and 11.4 years in 2009.
The average age of divorcees has also increased since 1985, when couples were typically in their mid-30s, to around 46 years of age for men and 43 years for women.
The number of so called silver-splitters is also on the rise with 9,848 men aged over 60 divorcing last year, which is up from 8,697 and 6,128 women over-60 ending their marriages, up from 5,554.
The ONS reveals that 61 per cent of marriages were ended at the woman’s request, with ‘unreasonable behaviour’ the most commonly cited reason.
Despite the spike in divorces last year, the rate is still less than a peak seen in 2003.
The data also provides details on the breakdown of same-sex relationships. In 2016, there were 112 divorces of same-sex couples in 2016 – only the second year that this has been possible – with 78 per cent involving female couples.
Meanwhile, a separate research study has suggested that divorce which runs in families could be due to a genetic predisposition.
Although it is widely accepted that children of divorced parents are more likely to become divorced themselves, compared with the offspring whose parents stayed together, it had been presumed that this was due to nurture not nature.
However a new joint study, carried out by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Lund University in Sweden, has found evidence that adopted children do not necessarily behave in the same way, leading researchers to suggest that divorce might in fact be in the genes.
Surjit Verdi, a family law expert with Palmers, said: “The latest statistics from the ONS may just be an annual blip. A number of commentators have tried to explain why 2016 saw a slight increase in divorces – with some even blaming Brexit, claiming that rows between spouses over their voting intentions may have led to increase marital tensions.
“Regardless of whether the relationship breakdown is due to Brexit or even, as the new study suggests it may be genetic, it is important to seek specialist legal advice so that issues relating to finances, property and any children from the relationship, can be resolved equitably.”
For advice on all aspects of family law including separation agreements, divorce and financial settlement agreements, please contact us.