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Divorce rates fall to five decade low

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Divorce rates in England and Wales are at their lowest level since 1971, official statistics reveal.

There were 90,871 divorces of opposite-sex couples in 2018, a decrease of 10.6% compared with 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

But divorces of same-sex couples increased from 338 in 2017 to 428 in 2018, and have risen each year since their introduction in March 2014. Three-quarters of the divorces were by female couples.

‘Unreasonable behaviour’ was the most common reason for divorce among both opposite and same-sex couples. The majority of divorces in opposite-sex marriage were petitioned by the wife (62%).

The average duration of marriages before divorce stood at 12.5 years with the average age of men standing at 46.9 years and 44.5 for women in opposite-sex marriages. For same-sex couples, the average age was 40.7 for men and 38.3 for women.

The ONS said there has been a downward trend in divorce numbers since they peaked in 2003, however the decline in divorces is consistent with a fall in the number of marriages since 1989. Many couples, particularly younger ones, now cohabit. And 42% of marriages will end in divorce, according to the statistics.

The decrease could also be down to an ‘administrative reason’ as divorce centres dealt with a backlog of cases in 2018 and so the ONS said it expects this to translate into a higher number of completed divorces in 2019.

Zoe Bailey, director of financial planning at wealth management group, Tilney, said: “It is worth remembering that, in addition to the emotional stress, there are important and sometimes long lasting financial implications that need to be considered. It’s not uncommon for people to focus solely on the bigger financial assets, such as the family home, during a divorce.

“Often, people forget, or worse still are unclear, about what to do about their pension pots – which in some cases can turn out to be worth more than the family home. Sometimes even the thought of gathering the paperwork can seem too daunting. But it really is worth getting an understanding of them, including any State Pension discrepancies.

“While a divorce process will be led by your lawyers, talking about your finances and getting some professional financial guidance and advice during the early stages, alongside the legal process, can help you feel more supported and ensure that the division of assets is carried out in the best way, and a way that minimises the potential impact of tax, and ultimately puts divorcees and their families on a better financial footing for the future.”

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