The number of divorces in England and Wales has fallen again.
There were 101,055 divorces in 2015, a decrease of more than nine per cent from the previous year’s total, according to newly published figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The number is also 34 per cent lower than the most recent peak which occurred in 2003.
As well as a falling divorce rate, the ONS also revealed that marriages are lasting longer. The median length of a marriage in 2015 was 11.9 years. This is an increase from the two preceding years where the average length was 11.7.
The average age of those seeking a divorce has also risen to 45.9 among men and 43.5 for women. Both of these numbers are the highest average age on record, as they follow a steady upward trend since 1985.
Wives launched divorce proceedings at a much greater rate than husbands. In 2015, 62,565 women sought the end of their marriage compared to just 38,490 men. This continues a decades-long trend, as women have asked for more divorces every year since 1944, a year when there were just 12,312 decrees made in total.
Stowe Family Law Managing Partner David Milburn wondered whether the changing nature of the roles people take in their relationships was behind the downward trend in divorce over the last few years.
“People are increasingly moving away from the ‘traditional’ family formula where the husband goes off to work and does little around the house while the wife stays home to look after the children. Now women continue with their careers – and can often be the breadwinner – while men start to pitch in more around the house. There appears to be greater equality in modern marriages with changing gender roles.
Equality is important in a good marriage so perhaps as more couples share the burdens of both work and a home life, the more satisfied they feel and therefore less likely to divorce.
Another factor is that fewer people are getting married these days and therefore one would expect the divorce rates to decrease also.
Ultimately there are likely to be a host of reasons why the amount of divorces appear to be decreasing.”
2015 also marked the first year that same sex divorces were available, following the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act the previous year. In total, 22 of these couples divorced in 2015: ten of them were male partnerships and 12 were female.