The recession has had no effect on divorce rates – or so campaign group the Marriage Foundation claims.
According to Foundation’s communications director Harry Benson, the statistics simply don’t support claims that financial pressures and mortgage stresses drive couples apart – either in the midst of financial gloom or at that delicate point when things start to improve. According to the latter perspective, it is often when incomes start to rise again, job security improves and divorce begins to seem affordable once more that the tensions which have been building up during the bad times suddenly come pouring out, like steam from a boiling kettle.
But Mr Benson will have none of this. According to him:
“For every year since the 1970s – and across every duration of marriage, from ‘newlyweds’ through to ‘silver surfers’ – divorce rates have almost always stayed within plus or minus 10 percent of the previous year’s figure. There is no evidence whatsoever to link either economic growth or stock market performance with changes in divorce rates.”
According the Foundation’s report, entitled It’s Not About the Economy Another Divorce Myth Bites The Dust, statistics show only a random connection to pattern s of boom and bust in the economy. The divorce rate rose during recessions in 1980 and 1991, the report says, but has dropped since the current crisis began in 2008.
According to Mr Benson: “It’s hard, if not impossible, to spot any kind of trend in each new year’s divorce rate figures because they combine the divorce rates of couples who have been together, say, two years with those who have been together twenty years.”
He detects only “random peaks and falls” in the marriage and divorce statistics. I take Mr Benson’s point – a marriage of only a few years is clearly a very different model to one that has lasted 20. But statistics are one thing and day to day reality is quite another. The Marriage Foundation is not reporting from the coalface like ourselves – talking to clients, hearing their stories and tales of woe every day of the working week.
Instead they are all about statistics – these may cast some light onto patterns and trends but they are inevitably both remote and sometimes years out of date. Many people have been placed tremendous pressure by this recession. Businesses that would once have been robust have wobbled or simply collapsed. Banks pull the plug or refuse finance in the first place. Couples argue or worry about paying the mortgage, finding a new job or feeding the children. And stress and anxiety can have a very corrosive effect on relationships, especially those not built on the firmest of foundations in the first place. Couples argue – or look for relief and distraction elsewhere. Marriages sputter out.
Clients have sat across from us here at Stowe Family Law and often given such accounts. And yes, tears have been shed. That has been our experience – whatever the statistics may claim.