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Divorce at 40

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics – An update

The Office of National Statistics has released latest figures which show the marital status and living arrangements of people aged 16 and over in England and Wales from 2002 to 2014. These reveal some interesting trends.

The 1950s saw a mere 31,000 divorces in England and Wales. The number of divorces spiked in the 1970s after the Divorce Reform Act 1969 came into effect which made it easier for couples to divorce. It further peaked in 1993 when the number of divorces rose to 165,000 before falling back to 118,000 by 2011. In 2012, 40-44 years of age was the most common age at divorce according to the Office of National Statistics. Between 2002 and 2014 the increase in the percentage of the population who were divorced was driven by those aged 45 and over with the largest percentages divorced at ages 50 to 64. .

These figures illustrate that divorce ‘is no longer the stigma it once was’. Older couples in unhappy relationships are clearly no longer staying together for the sake of it, realising that divorce is an option for them and that making a fresh start can often lead to a happier future.

Other figures show:

  • In 2014, 51.5% of people aged 16 and over in England and Wales were married or civil partnered while 33.9% were single, never married.
  • Between 2002 and 2014 the proportions of people aged 16 and over who were single or divorced increased but the proportions who were married or widowed decreased.
  • In 2014 around one in eight adults in England and Wales were living in a couple but not currently married or civil partnered; cohabiting is most common in the 30 to 34 age group.
  • More women (18.9%) than men (9.8%) were not living in a couple having been previously married or civil partnered; this is due to larger numbers of older widowed women than men in England and Wales in 2014.

This illustrates that a large number of couples today are cohabiting. There are various reasons for cohabitation; one being that it is a stepping stone to marriage, another common reason is due to financial necessity. Despite recent changes in law, cohabitants do not possess some of the rights they think ‘common law couples’ do. A prime example is that if only one of the couple has a financial stake in a property, in the event of a break up the other will have no automatic right to a share in that property at all. A break up between cohabitants can be very costly to litigate because there is no clear legal structure in place in contrast to the situation on divorce. To avoid we recommend that cohabiting couples have a Cohabitation Agreement.

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Paul Lancaster

Family Law
0113 227 9285
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Paul Lancaster Blacks Solicitors LLP