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Divorces up by 4.9% in England and Wales

image captionThe annual increase in divorces is the first in seven years

The number of divorces in England and Wales increased by 4.9% last year - the first annual increase for eight years - official figures show.

The Office for National Statistics said there were 119,589 divorces in 2010 compared with 113,949 in 2009.

When the divorce rate last rose in 2003, there were 153,065 break-ups, a rise from 147,735 the previous year.

The number of divorces last year was highest among men and women aged 40 to 44, the ONS added.

The divorce rate increased from 10.5 divorcing people per thousand of the married population in 2009, to 11.1 per thousand in 2010.

'Delayed impact'

The ONS said the increase may be linked with the difficult economic climate, following the recession.

"The figures show that divorce rates continued their downward trend during 2008 and 2009 but increased in 2010," its report said.

"This could be consistent with the theory that recession is associated with an increased risk of divorce, but with a delayed impact, perhaps reflecting 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.

"A similar trend can be seen during the previous recession in 1990-92, where divorce rates increased more markedly in 1993 than during the recession itself."

Seven out of 10 divorces in 2010 involved couples who were both in their first marriage - the rest had at least one partner who had been previously divorced or widowed.

Civil partnerships

Two-thirds of decrees were granted to the wife.

Unreasonable behaviour by the husband was the "fact proven" in 55% of cases brought by the wife, while the same by the wife was the cause in 35% of claims by the husband.

Half of couples divorcing in 2010 had at least one child aged under 16 living with the family.

The ONS said a third of marriages begun in 1995 had ended in divorce by their 15th anniversary. This compares to just over a fifth of marital unions from 1970 failing inside 15 years.

Dissolutions of civil partnership also increased in 2010, but the ONS said this was to be expected because of their relatively new status and therefore the numbers of those entering such partnerships increasing.

In the UK as a whole, the number of divorces rose by 4.5% to 132,223 in 2010 from 126,496 in 2009.

The number of divorces in Scotland fell by 3.2% from 10,371 to 10,034. In Northern Ireland, it increased 20% to 2,600 from 2,176.

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