Written By Keith Doherty
Although fewer people are getting divorced in England and Wales every year, the average age of those splitting up has hit an all-time high.
Divorce Statistics and Trends
The most recently published figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that there were 101,699 divorces in 2017, a decrease of more than 5% from the previous year’s total. The number is also 34% lower than the most recent peak which occurred in 2003.
In 2017, there were 8.4 divorces per 1,000 married men and women aged 16 years and over (divorce rates), representing the lowest divorce rates since 1973 and a 5.6% decrease from 2016.
As well as a falling divorce rate, the ONS also revealed that marriages are lasting longer. The median length of a marriage in 2017 was 12.2 years. This matched a high last seen in 1972. However the average age of those seeking a divorce has also risen to 46.4 for men and 43.9 for women. Both of these numbers are the highest average age on record, as they follow a steady upward trend since 1985. The estimated percentage of all marriages ending in divorce is 42%. Around half of these divorces are expected to occur in the first 10 years of marriage.
The Later Life Divorce
Characteristic of the later-life divorce is a more complex financial settlement. Older couples who have had longer to acrue their wealth, are more likely to have substantial pension pots and potentially, have more involved financial affairs to reconcile, which could include business assets or even inherited wealth.
But not everthing has changed – the latest statistics show us that wives still launched divorce proceedings at a much greater rate than husbands. In 2017, 62% of divorce were issued by wives. 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.
Unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for opposite-sex couples divorcing with 52% of wives and 37% of husbands petitioning on these grounds. Though with divorce reform on the horizon, no-fault divorces could be the new norm in the near future.
Many experts have commented on why divorce rates are falling with some saying it’s simply because there are fewer marriages as people are living together longer. Others might argue that the modern face of marriage – with balanced working and domestic responsibilities for both men and women, has contributed to greater overall life satisfaction and therefore, lower divorce rates.
There is however one exception. The over 50’s have seen both a rise in the number of marriages and the number of divorces. One reason for the trend continuing with the over 50’s is that with longer life expectancy, this generation faces a long retirement with their spouse and the prospect of spending that time with someone they are no longer are compatible with, can prompt a big life change for a final chance at personal happiness. Alternatively, for those who may already be divorced, widowed or living with a partner, marriage affords a degree of financial advantage and security in the twilight years, making it an attractive prospect for those who have already found a partner after their first marriage has ended.
At Antony Clapp Solicitors, we recognise that each case is unique and divorce at any age can represent one of the most challenging and emotional periods in a person’s life. Our team of specialist family law solicitors can guide and advise clients throughout the process, offering them expert legal knowledge for complex financial affairs and ensuring they have the best chance for a successful outcome.
If you’d like to discuss the divorce process with one of our team in confidence, please contact us to book an appointment.