Does the falling divorce rate mean a big happy ever after?

The number of people divorcing in England and Wales decreased by 3.1 percent in 2014, the lowest rate for 40 years, according to the latest statistical data from the Office for National Statistics.

 Sian Kenkre, a specialist divorce and family law solicitor at The Wilkes Partnership examines the reasons behind this trend and why we should view said statistics with caution on behalf of the Birmingham Post Family Law & Divorce Report.

Both here and in the U.S.A the divorce rate, which peaked in the mid 1970s and early 80s is in steady decline. The number of men who ended their marriages in 2014 fell by the same amount as women. There were 9.3% divorcing per 1,000 married ones, a 5.1% drop from 2013. Among women the numbers were identical.

The gap between the number of people marrying than divorcing is now wider than at any time since 1992, however, the figures do not tell the whole story comments Sian.

The substantial increase in court fees and cuts to legal aid mean that fewer people perceive that they can afford to get divorced. We are seeing many couples who have simply separated some time ago and not dealt with divorce proceedings. These couples often believe that they have a financial agreement but in reality they have just left their finances open, which can often lead to more complex, costly and bitter disputes at a later date.

Family breakdown continues to rise in unmarried families, however, such breakups are unaccounted for in the rosier picture suggested by the divorce data. Also, shifting social attitudes have long since shown a much bigger move towards couples living together unmarried. These days 1 in 6 couples cohabit compared to 1 in 100 in the 1960s when this was still seen as socially deviant. Separation in unmarried couples can be a trickier business because of the absence of consistent rights for cohabitees.

Pre-nuptial agreements are far more popular than ever but still regarded by many with caution; business people and entrepreneur clients who consult with us are often choosing not to marry and this sort of trend will affect the number of divorces too.

Sian comments, “This data lends itself easily to the suggestion that couples are happier and fewer wish to divorce. However, in isolation they only tell half the story. We should resist the temptation to draw any serious conclusions from them.”

For advice on any Family law related matter please contact Sian Kenkre on 0121 733 8000 or [email protected]


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