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Divorce rate lowest for 26 years

Date:29 AUG 2008

The provisional divorce rate in England and Wales fell for a third consecutive year, reaching its lowest level since 1981, according to new statistics on divorces in 2007 released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The divorce rate fell to 11.9 divorces per thousand married men and women compared with the 2006 figure of 12.2.

Compared with 2006, divorce rates in England and Wales for both men and women fell across most age groups. However, rates increased for men and women aged 60 and over, and also for women aged between 45 and 49.

For the sixth consecutive year both men and women in their late twenties had the highest divorce rates of all five-year age groups. In 2007 there were 26.6 divorces per 1,000 married men aged 25-29 and 26.9 divorces per 1,000 married women aged 25-29.

The provisional number of divorces in England and Wales fell for the fourth year in succession to 128,534 in 2007, a drop of 3.0 per cent compared with 132,562 in 2006. This is the lowest number since 1976 when there were 126,694 divorces.

One in five men and women divorcing in 2007 had a previous marriage ending in divorce. This proportion has doubled in 27 years: in 1980 one in ten men and women divorcing had a previous marriage ending in divorce.

Over half (51 per cent) of couples divorcing in 2007 had at least one child aged under 16. There were 117,193 children aged under 16 who were in families where the parents divorced in 2007. Twenty per cent of these children were under five and 63 per cent were under eleven. These are the same percentages that were observed in 2006.

There was a similar increase in the average (mean) age at divorce for both men and women in 2007. For women it increased from 40.9 years in 2006 to 41.2 in 2007, for men the increase was from 43.4 years in 2006 to 43.7 in 2007.

The provisional number of divorces in the whole of the United Kingdom fell by 2.6 per cent in 2007 to 144,220 compared with 148,141 in 2006.

The provisional number of divorces in Scotland fell by 1.9 per cent from 13,014 in 2006 to 12,773 in 2007. However, the provisional number of divorces in Northern Ireland increased. In 2007, there were 2,913 divorces, 14 per cent more than in 2006 when there were 2,565.

There were 42 civil partnership dissolutions granted in the UK in 2007, of which 14 were to male couples and 28 to female couples.