Jonathan Prynn, Consumer Business Editor
8 Dec 2011
The number of couples divorcing has soared for the first time in almost a decade as a result of the economic crisis.
Shock figures today revealed a five per cent leap in marital breakdowns to almost 114,000 last year, after they fell for most of the Noughties.
They show that four out of 10 couples will never reach their silver anniversary – and one in 12 marriages from 2005 is already over. Divorce specialists said the financial crisis and economic downturn over the past three years had put huge strains on relationships.
Mark Harper, a partner at London law firm Withers, said: “People are sometimes more willing to put up with marriage problems if there is enough money. But if a marriage is rocky and the husband isn’t earning as much as before, that can be the final straw.”
Government statisticians also linked the number of divorces to the 2008 banking crisis and the sharp recession that followed it. They said the divorce rate pattern was following the one seen in the aftermath of the early Nineties recession.
The Office for National Statistics, which compiled the figures revealing divorces last year hit 113,949, said: “The figures show that divorce rates continued their downward trend during 2008 and 2009 but increased in 2010.
“This could be consistent with the theory 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.”
Mr Harper said a collapse in bonuses may have paradoxically contributed to a fall in the number of City bankers divorcing.
He said: “In 2008 and 2009 fewer bankers were getting divorced. Previously their attitude would have been ‘I’m going to trade down to a younger model and it doesn’t matter how much it costs because I’m going to get a fabulous bonus next year to make it all up’.”
The statistics for England and Wales show how the divorce rate has steadily risen over 40 years.
Of the couples taking their vows as recently as 1995, a third have now received their decree nisi.
This compares with just 22 per cent of marriages in 1970 that ended over the same period. It is the first annual increase in divorces since 2003, when there were 153,065 break-ups – a rise from 147,735 the previous year.
Divorces last year were highest among men and women aged 40 to 44, the ONS added. The rate
rose from 10.5 divorcing people per thousand of the married population in 2009 to 11.1 per thousand last year.