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Older people dominate in new divorce statistics

More than eight per cent of the adult population of England and Wales has been divorced, new government statistics reveal.

According to a new published bulletin from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), a total of 3,802,489 people aged 16 or over were –or had previously been- divorced during 2014: 8.2 per cent of the total. By contrast, just 7.4 per cent of the adult population were divorcees in 2002.

The majority of the increase since, according to the ONS, was accounted for by divorces among people aged over 45, with this trend particularly noticeable amongst couples aged between 50 and 64 – the so-called ‘silver splitters’. The latter group accounts for more than 45 per cent of the total number of divorcees, with couples in the second half their 40s and those in their second half of their sixties making up more than 25 per cent of the remainder.

Just over half the adult population of England and Wales were – or had previously been – married during 2014, according to the figures: a total of 23,837,253 people. This figure represents a fall of more than three per cent since 2002, when only 54.8 per cent of the adult population were married.

Meanwhile, more than one in eight adults lived together without marriage last year – 4,187,042, or around nine per cent of the population. People in their 30s account for more than 35 per cent of cohabiting couples.

These figures intriguing. Perhaps the predominance of older couples in the divorce courts reflects both legislative and social changes?

In recent years, the phenomenon of the older couple going their separate ways has attracted increasing attention from sociologists and the media. Partly this steady increase in older divorce reflects changing social realities – people tend to get married and have children later in life these days because their priorities have changed. But divorce in later life is also more economically feasible now than it once was – since the precedent-setting divorce case White v White in 2000, the starting point for the courts when dividing marital assets has been equality: a 50-50 split between husband and wife. In addition, ‘capitalisation of maintenance’ is now a standard practice, allowing former spouses to end ongoing maintenance obligations in favour of one off capital payments and a clean break settlement, so they can go their separate ways once and for all.

The full ONS bulletin is here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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