Historically, January is known as the busiest time for divorce lawyers. People in troubled relationships dwell upon having had an unhappy Christmas period and resolve to change their lives for the better at the start of the New Year.
Recently published figures from the Office for National Statistics, however, show that the number of divorces in England and Wales is currently decreasing. The number fell by 2.9% to 114,720 in 2013 compared to 118,140 in 2012, almost the lowest level during the last 40 years.
The number of divorces generally increased between 1933 and the early 1990s, peaking at 165,018 in 1993. There was a large increase in number in the late 1940s, after the end of the Second World War, which is thought to be due to more women working during the war, meaning that they were less financially dependent on their husbands. There was also a large increase in the early 1970s after divorce legislation was changed making it easier for couples to divorce.
Over the last ten years divorce has become increasingly popular for both men and women in their 50s. In the younger age groups, more women were filing for divorce than men, but in older age groups the men were instigating more divorces. The highest number of divorces was in the 40-44 year old age group.
In 2013, 65% of divorces were granted to women and 35% to men. The average age for a man to divorce is currently 45 and 42 for women. This is increasing but is consistent with increases in the average age for marriage. The average length of marriage is 11 years and this has remained constant during the last 10 years.
In order to divorce, one party to the marriage needs to prove to the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down due to at least one of the following reasons:
The majority (54%) of divorces granted to wives in 2013 were on the basis of their husband’s behaviour. Of the divorces granted to husbands, the most common reason was due to separation for at least two years.
Pre-nuptial agreements are becoming ever more popular. As the law currently stands, a pre-nuptial agreement in England and Wales will not be definitely binding upon divorce but will be taken into account by the court at the time of divorce and greater weight will be given to the agreement if the parties disclosed their financial circumstances to each other and received appropriate legal advice before the agreement was entered into. They are particularly useful if one party has wealth earned before the marriage or if one party is due to receive an inheritance during the marriage. Parties are often encouraged by parents, who are investing in housing to enable their children to get on the property ladder, but wish to protect family money against any future marriage breakdown.
Nicola Matthews is a member of Resolution and a qualified Collaborative Lawyer. For further information, please contact Nicola:
Call: 0191 232 8345