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ONS figures reveal that older people are fuelling a long-term rise in divorce rates

Sep 29, 2018, 22:12 PM
family law, ONS, office for national statistics, cohabitation, divorce, living arrangements, marital status
New figures from the Office of National Statistics have revealed that older people are fuelling a long-term rise in divorce rates. It is also revealed that people in their 30s are more likely to be cohabitating than other age groups.
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New figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that older people are fuelling a long-term rise in divorce rates. It is also revealed that people in their 30s are more likely to be cohabitating than other age groups.

Today's bulletin released by ONS presents annual estimates of the population by legal marital status and living arrangements for England and Wales. The estimates cover the years 2002 to 2014, broken down by age group and sex.

The main points of the bulletin are as follows:
  • In 2014, 51.5% of people aged 16 and over in England and Wales were married or civil partnered while 33.9% were single, never married.
  • Between 2002 and 2014 the proportions of people aged 16 and over who were single or divorced increased but the proportions who were married or widowed decreased.
  • The increase between 2002 and 2014 in the percentage of the population who were divorced was driven by those aged 45 and over, with the largest percentages divorced at ages 50 to 64 in 2014.
  • In 2014 around 1 in 8 adults in England and Wales were living in a couple but not currently married or civil partnered; cohabiting is most common in the 30 to 34 age group.
  • More women (18.9%) than men (9.8%) were not living in a couple having been previously married or civil partnered; this is due to larger numbers of older widowed women than men in England and Wales in 2014.
Speaking of the figures, Zoe Round, a specialist divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell said:

'The rise in older people divorcing has been a trend for the past few years and reflects that fact that divorce is no longer the stigma it once was. In general, attitudes have changed towards relationships and divorce. The older generation have realised that they can separate, often amicably, and still meet new people and lead a more enriched life rather than staying in relationships which may be making them unhappy. Social Media is also helping to open up new ways of finding others and developing new hobbies, interests and partnerships.

People in their 30s are more likely to be cohabiting than others partly because of attitudes to marriage but also because finances have been squeezed for many during the past 6 years when traditionally they would have been paying for their weddings. What cohabitants need to understand is that there is no such thing as a common law partner and that they may not have the rights they think they do in the event of any separation. ‘Living Together Agreements’ can help to set some boundaries in relationships. While it won’t help them organise the washing up rota or schedule date nights, it is legally binding if it deals with shared interests in property such as the home, furniture, cars and other valuable assets. Sorting out break-ups for unmarried couples can be costly because unlike divorce there is no straightforward legal framework to help decide how they may share assets after any potential split.'
The statistical bulletin is available to download here.
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