Page last updated at 11:48 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 12:48 UK

Housing dip 'slows divorce rate'

Wedding ring
Divorce rates have fallen for three years in a row

Most homeowners will be disgruntled by falling house prices - but it could be saving their marriage.

Property group Savills says there is a strong correlation between changes in house prices and the number of divorces in England and Wales.

Falling prices makes divorce less affordable, it says. More equity is involved as the average age of splitting couples is getting older.

But another survey suggested an economic slowdown hit City marriages.

Splits down

The Office of National Statistics says that the divorce rate in England and Wales is at a 26-year low, with 11.9 divorcing people for every 1,000 of the married population.

The seven year itch is becoming the 20 to 25 year itch
Lucian Cook, Savills

But the average age for a divorce is up to 43 for men and 41 for women, driven in part by a striking rise in divorcing couples aged over 50.

"The seven year itch is becoming the 20 to 25 year itch," said Lucian Cook, director of research at Savills.

"They are couples who have climbed the housing ladder and, having generated significant equity, divide it between them when they separate."

As a result, they could be more likely to stall on divorcing and selling up, or could be waiting for prices to fall further before buying smaller properties separately.

But other surveys suggest that the economic downturn could affect marriages among those working in the City.

A poll commissioned by law firm Mishcon de Reya earlier this year suggested that a fifth of stockbrokers, hedge fund managers and analysts knew a colleague who had been issued with divorce proceedings since the downturn began.

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