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Eddie Mair | 13:53 UK time, Thursday, 30 August 2007

On the programme tonight we might be interviewing someone based on this PA copy:

The number of divorces in England and Wales has fallen to an almost 30-year low, official figures showed today.
A total of 132,562 couples formally split last year, a drop of 6.5% on 2005 and the third annual drop in succession, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. The figure, which excludes Scotland and Northern Ireland, is the lowest since 1977 when there were 129,053 divorces. The overall provisional divorce rate for England and Wales - calculated by proportion rather than total - also fell to its lowest level for 22 years, to 12.2 for every thousand married men and women. It was the second annual fall in succession, with the divorce rate down 7% on 2005 of 13.1%. The figures show that the idea of the seven-year itch may be overly pessimistic - the average failed marriage now lasts as long as 11.6 years, unchanged since 2005. People in their late 20s had the highest divorce rates - with 26 divorces per thousand married men aged 25-29 and 27.3 among women in the same age group - but
overall the average age of people divorcing was higher, at 40.9 for women and 43.4 for men. The number of second-time divorcees has also doubled in last 25 years. In 1981 just over one in 10 people getting divorced had already had a previous marriage dissolved. Last year that figure was one in five. Across the UK as a whole, the number of divorces fell by a more modest 4.5% to 148,141 in 2006 from 155,052 in 2005. But in Scotland there was a near-20% surge in the number of divorces, up from 10,940 in 2005 to 13,014 last year. The ONS said the hike could be the result of a sharp cut in the required separation period which came into effect in May last year.
Under the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, couples who mutually agree to divorce can do so after just one year apart instead of two. Contested cases can now go ahead after two years, rather than five. In Northern Ireland the number of divorces rose by 8.6% to 2,565 last year, compared to 2,362 in 2005, the ONS said.


  1. At 03:47 PM on 30 Aug 2007, Fifi wrote:

    This is going to sound lame, I know ... but I often wonder if it's too easy to get married and THAT is why so many marriages end in divorce.

    It's a conveyor belt: go out for a while, move in, get engaged, married, kids, fed up, break up, meet someone else, have kids, get married, fed up, meet someone else...

    Of course, generalising about something so incredibly personal is a dangerous game. (My tin hat is at the ready!) And apologies to anyone going through tough marital times, reading this, to whom I am doubtlessly coming across as smug.

    Fifi :o(
    (unmarried to the same bloke for 20+ years, no kids, still waiting for the fed-up thing to kick in)

  2. At 04:05 PM on 30 Aug 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    If they don't give the figures for marriage, this doesn't show how many people don't bother to marry in the first place, and whose separation is not a divorce?

    Not much meaning here.

  3. At 04:13 PM on 30 Aug 2007, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    As stated on a news programme (WATO?) so few people are getting married nowadays it's not surprising if fewer are getting divorced. Apparently couples who get together and then separate are not tracked. And what of civil partnerships? How do they get cancelled?

  4. At 04:26 PM on 30 Aug 2007, Happy Man wrote:

    Fifi - "unmarried to the same bloke for 20+ years"

    I've been unmarried to lots of women for many more years than that!

  5. At 04:52 PM on 30 Aug 2007, Ann Ulment wrote:

    A judge was interviewing a woman regarding her pending divorce, and asked, "What are the grounds for your divorce?"

    She replied, "About four acres and a nice little home in the middle of the property with a stream running by."

    "No," he said, "I mean what is the foundation of this case?"

    "It is made of concrete, brick and mortar," she responded.

    "I mean," he continued, "What are your relations like?"

    "I have an aunt and uncle living here in town, and so do my husband's parents."

    He said, "Do you have a real grudge?"

    "No," she replied, "We have a two-car carport and have never really needed one."

    "Please," he tried again, "is there any infidelity in your marriage?"

    "Yes, both my son and daughter have stereo sets. We don't necessarily like the music, but the answer to your questions is yes."

    "Ma'am, does your husband ever beat you up?"

    "Yes," she responded, "about twice a week he gets up earlier than I do."

    Finally, in frustration, the judge asked, "Lady, why do you want a divorce?"

    "Oh, I don't want a divorce," she replied. "I've never wanted a divorce. My husband does. He said he can't communicate with me!"

  6. At 10:15 PM on 30 Aug 2007, Ann Ulment wrote:

    What /where went my post?

  7. At 10:41 PM on 30 Aug 2007, Ann Ulment wrote:

    So postings appear after 6 hours? Pretty useless blog this!

  8. At 10:48 PM on 30 Aug 2007, Simon Worrall wrote:

    Why is divorce so expensive?
    Because it's worth it!

    Now you can buy the Barbie divorce set. She gets Ken's car, Ken's house, Ken's bank account.


  9. At 11:52 PM on 30 Aug 2007, Jeems wrote:

    One of the less obvious factors contributing to the falling numbers of divorces is the approach now taken by the English courts to the division of marital assets. This now presents a significant disincentive to many potential divorcers and must distort the statistics which are coming through.

    You could reverse the male/female roles in the following but consider a man, widowed, who meets and marries a divorcee. Both in their 50s. He finances the marriage, including sizeable mortgage, but it doesn't work out. They divorce after a few years.

    Both parties had adult children from their previous marriages. This marriage has involved no sacrifice of career on the wife's part (there wasn't one) or time devoted to bringing up children of the marriage.

    He recognises his ongoing responsibility to maintain this ex-wife out of his future income. He accepts also that she should have 50% of the equity in their house.

    He then finds that the starting point for division of other assets includes

    1. his wife walking off with half of the (considerable) value of his pension - over 90% of which pension he earned while married to his first wife and during which time the wife he is now divorcing had been married to somebody else, better paid and better pensioned than himself.

    2. she also walks off with half the value of his parents' house which he inherited the previous year - parents who expected their own child and grandchildren to benefit from their legacy.

    Despite her divorce settlement from her first husband (some years ago, before these provisions applied), she has no equivalent assets to be included in the division from which he could gain equivalent benefit.

    These assets are lost to him - and his family - immediately and irrevocably, even if she walks straight into another relationship/marriage with somebody new, well able to support and keep her. The likelihood of which is of course increased with these extra assets making her a more attractive proposition.

    Who would go into a divorce with that outcome staring them in the face?

    I wouldn't so I haven't.

    Result? More years of unhappiness and continuing misery all round ... but hey! look on the bright side, the statistics are getting better ... the divorce rate is falling ...

    ... but not in Scotland where, apart from the one-off effect of the change in law you mention, the whole approach to assets brought into a marriage (by either party) whether directly or through inheritance is completely different, natural, logical and immeasurably more equitable.

    I think it is very easy to innocently draw incorrect conclusions from the changes taking place in these divorce statistics.

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