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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
Divorce rate highest since 1996
Divorced couple (generic)
People in the 25 to 29 age bracket have the highest divorce rates
The number of divorces granted in the UK has reached its highest level since 1996, new statistics reveal.

In 2004, the number rose to 167,116 from 166,737 in 2003, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show. In 1996 there were 171,700 divorces.

Men and women aged 25 to 29 continued to have the highest divorce rates.

Charity Relate said the rise was partly due to pressure being put on family life by an increasingly "individualistic way of living".

DIVORCES IN ENGLAND AND WALES 2004
Divorce rate is 14 per 1,000 marriages
Average age at divorce for men is 42.7 years
Average age at divorce for women is 40.2 years
Average length of marriage is 11.5 years
69% between couples where neither were married before
Source: ONS

The number of divorces in England and Wales alone dropped slightly by just 91 to 153,399.

The average age at divorce in England and Wales saw a slight increase to 42.7 years for men and 40.2 years for women, compared with 42.3 years and 39.8 years respectively in 2003.

And the average length of marriage for divorces granted increased from 11.3 years to 11.5 years.

'Changing society'

The rise in the number of UK divorces is the fourth successive annual increase.

Cheryl Turner, head of public policy for Relate, said the increase was related to a "changing society" in which life was "moving at a faster pace".

"As this happens, the pressure on families grows," she told the BBC News website.

"There's no one specific thing but common sense tells us that this 24/7 lifestyle is a very individualistic way of living - we look out for ourselves and we're not as good at community as we used to be.

"The pressure on families to deliver so many different things at a time when the instinct is to think about yourself means more people are splitting up."

Counselling increase

People were sometimes leaving relationships before spending enough time and effort trying to save them, Ms Turner said.

But Relate had been buoyed by a 10% increase in the number of people using their service last year, she added.

The latest statistics, released on Wednesday, also show that in England and Wales more than two-thirds - 69% - of divorces in 2004 were granted to the wife.

In 52% of these cases the fact proven for the divorce was the husband's behaviour.

It was also revealed that 53% of couples divorcing had at least one child under the age of 16 - 2% less than in 2003.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See how the average age for divorce is changing



SEE ALSO:
Divorced women miss pension share
20 May 05 |  Business


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