The financial woes that swept the country as a result of the recession may have led to more couples getting divorced, a report suggests.
Between 2003 and 2009 there was a general downward trend in the number of divorces in England and Wales, but in 2010 the number of marital break-ups rose by 4.9 per cent, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
According to the ONS, the rise could have been linked to the recession of 2008 and 2009.
“One theory suggests that recession could contribute to a rise in partnership break-ups because of increased financial strain, changes in employment and related lifestyle changes,” the report states.
The ONS figures also show a slight rise in the number of divorces in 2012. In 2011, 117,558 couples decided to go their separate ways, with the figure rising to 118,140 in 2012.
The report adds: “Recent trends could be consistent with the theory that recession is associated with an increased risk of divorce, but with a delayed impact.
“This perhaps reflects a couple’s wait for an economic recovery to lift the value of their assets or the time lag between separation and obtaining a decree absolute.”
Leeds divorce lawyer Marilyn Stowe said: “I believe the economic situation, with the UK falling in and out of recession, has played a key role.
“A greater number of businesses go into liquidation when a country emerges from recession, and in my experience this principle applies to marriages too.
“Couples will struggle through times of adversity as best they can, but eventually find that despite their best efforts, they simply can’t go on any longer.”
The Rev Gordon Cooper, Rector of St Mary’s Church in Garforth, Leeds, said: “I do think the pressures that come with economic problems can have an effect on a marriage.
“I also think it’s important that churches do their best to support the family and family life in the midst of any difficulties that people might be having.”
Vicki McLynn, partner at law firm Pannone, said: “The fact that there has been a slight increase could be attributed to couples believing that they can finally afford to divorce now the recession appears to be coming an end.
“Commonly, they feel that in a healthier economy, they may be more likely to find jobs and financial security to sustain them after they separate.”
Estimates suggest that 42 per cent of marriages end in divorce, the report states. The ONS said a third of marriages are expected to end in divorce before the couple reach their 20th wedding anniversary.
In 2012, the median length of time that couples stayed married before officially separating was 11 and a half years.
The statistics also show a rise in double-divorcees. In 1980 just one in ten men and women who divorced also had their previous marriage end in failure. That figure rose to almost one in five by 2012. Almost 16,000 marriages ended in 2012 because of adultery.
In 2012, the mean age of a divorcee was 44.7 for men and 42.2 for women. The ONS said the mean age for divorce had been steadily rising since the mid-1980s, coinciding with a rise in the age at which people wed.
Provisional marriage statistics suggest that in 2011 the average age for men to marry was 36.3 and 33.8 for women.
Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of relationship charity Relate, said: “We are saddened by the news that the number of divorces has risen slightly in 2012, especially as they had been in decline for the past few years. What matters to us is the quality of a relationship, rather than status. Ultimately, people’s happiness and wellbeing is of paramount importance.”