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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 August 2007, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Divorce rate lowest for 22 years
A couple getting married
Divorces in 2006 involved about 125,000 children
The divorce rate in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level for 22 years, official statistics reveal.

Some 132,562 couples split in 2006 - equivalent to 12.2 of every 1,000 married couples, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed.

This was 7% lower than 2005 - 13.1 in 1,000 - and the lowest since 1984.

However, the number of marriages in England and Wales is at a record low and figures showing how many unmarried couples split up are harder to collect.

Children hardest hit

Men and women in their 20s were the most likely to divorce compared with other age groups, but the average age to divorce was 40 for women and 43 for men, the ONS revealed.

These high-profile cases could be acting as a deterrent to both those considering leaping into marriage and contemplating divorce
Andrea McLaren, Grant Thornton, chartered accountants

More than half of divorces involved at least one child under 16, which includes about 125,000 children. Most of these children were under 11 and a fifth were under five.

Claire Tyler, chief executive of Relate, said: "Whilst it is encouraging that the divorce rate has fallen we must not forget that divorce is still a reality for many families living in the UK today and the emotional fallout can be devastating.

"For the fifth consecutive year men and women in their late 20s have the highest divorce rates, many of whom will have young children."

Andrea McLaren, head of matrimonial practice for chartered accountants Grant Thornton in London, said one reason for the falling marriage rate could be the recent spate of high-payout divorce cases.

She said: "The number of high-profile, big-money divorce cases seen through the courts recently, combined with an increasing number of couples cohabiting, could be the key factors behind the lowest divorce rate in England and Wales in the last 22 years.

"These high-profile cases could be acting as a deterrent to both those considering leaping into marriage and contemplating divorce - particularly given the high financial payouts handed out by the UK courts."

Couples who divorce do so on average after 11 and a half years of marriage, the statistics revealed.

The ONS also revealed: "For 69% of divorces in 2006, the wife was granted the divorce. For all divorces granted, behaviour was the most common fact proven."

More second marriages are ending in divorce - one in five men and women divorcing in 2006 had had previous divorces. This was twice the proportion compared with 25 years ago.

In 1981 just over one in 10 men and women divorcing had been divorced previously.

Is marriage becoming unfashionable?

The real cost of divorce
25 Oct 06 |  Business
Divorce 'can boost debt levels'
16 Oct 06 |  Business

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