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Divorce rate continues its downward trend

Cohabiting and increasing age at marriage may be factors

There were 111,169 divorces in England and Wales in 2014, a decrease of 3.1% compared with 2013 and a decline of 27% from a recent peak in 2003, according to the latest release of divorce figures by the Office for National Statistics.

The number of divorces in 2014 was highest among men aged 45 to 49 and women aged 40 to 44.

In 2014, there were 9.3 men divorcing per thousand married males, a decrease of 5.1% compared with 2013 and a fall of 30.6% from a recent peak in the divorce rate in 2004. In 2014, there were 9.3 women divorcing per thousand married females, a decrease of 5.1% compared with 2013 and a drop of 29.5% compared with 2004.

Nicola Haines, on behalf of the Office for National Statistics, said:

"Compared with 2004, divorce rates in 2014 were lower for all age groups except women aged 55 and over. Likely factors include increased cohabiting and increasing age at first marriage. Previous research indicates a higher risk of divorce among those marrying at younger ages, whilst cohabitation may be reducing the number of weaker relationships progressing to marriage."

Clare Wiseman, family and divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said:

"The divorce rates show that the average age of divorcees is continuing to rise partly because the attitudes of modern society towards divorce have become more relaxed in the past 10-20 years. Most divorcees are now in their 40s. People are recognising that they don't have to stay in unhappy relationships and the number of dating websites and groups that are aimed at older people show that it is possible to build new relationships no matter what age you divorce.

"Having said that the stats show that once a marriage lasts 20 years, there is a much greater chance the couple will stay together. The first 10 years remain the most likely time that a divorce will occur.

"Long term, the statistics show that divorce rates generally are continuing to decline which may reflect the fact that more people are cohabiting first which could mean their relationships are stronger when they come to get married or they are simply choosing not to marry in the first place particularly if one or both parties have had a previous relationship and/or are wealthy in their own right.

"Same sex marriage was first legally allowed in 2014 so in the next batch of statistics for the years following this we may start to see same-sex divorce reported on for the first time."

For the statistics, click here.