Seven-Year Low Point for Divorce
Divorce is all over the news in the United Kingdom this week as The U.K. Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently released data showing that the number of divorces in England and Wales have fallen to the lowest level in 35 years. In fact, the divorce rate in both areas has been dropping for six years in a row now.
The ONS numbers show that there was a 6.4% drop in the number of divorces in 2009 and the number has been steadily been falling from a high of 153,065 in 2003. In 2009 there were 113,949 divorces in England and Wales alone. Figures from the General Register Office for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency must be added to the England/Wales total to calculate the total number of divorces granted in the entire UK. Overall, divorces in the entire UK fell by 7% in 2009 to 126,496 compared with 135,994 in 2008.
The report from the ONS also showed that the average age for divorce in the UK has risen to around age 44 for men and 41.5 for women in the last year. The figures also show that the 11.4 year median duration of marriage for divorces granted in 2009, is lower than the 11.5 year duration in 2008 and an increase over the 10.5 year duration in 1999. The age group with the highest rate of divorce in the UK were those in their late twenties with a rate of 21.7 for the twenty-something men and 25.1 for the women out of 1,000 married people.
While it may be undeniable that the rate of divorce in the UK is falling, the number of marriages in England and Wales has also been declining at the same time. The data suggests a change in attitudes on marriage and an increase in the number of couples across the country who decide not to get married and decide to cohabit instead.
Some observers have said the recent economic woes around the world have caused people to have to learn to compromise a more than they used to in the past, and when those compromises extend to marriage, the result is fewer divorces. Some critics have been less optimistic and say that divorce rates are almost totally unrelated to marriage rates because it is not known who is actually getting divorced and until the numbers are broken down further it is impossible to determine the true causes. Speculation on the lower divorce rate included the observation that men in the UK are now realizing that a marriage contract does not compare so well to cohabitation when one considers that a marriage nets the man a spouse and a family-in-law, but the kids and the money always belong to the wife.