By Hugh Logue, Newswatch Editor
The number of divorces in England and Wales has increased for the first time since 2003, new statistics reveal.
The number of divorces in England and Wales rose by 4.9 per cent in 2010 to 119,589 compared with 113,949 in 2009, according to the Office for National Statistics. This is the first annual increase in divorces since 2003 when there were 153,065 divorces (up from 147,735 in 2002). The number of divorces fell steadily between 2003 and 2009 in parallel with the decline in the number of marriages as more couples choose to cohabit rather than marry.
Some commentators believe the latest rise may be due to financial strains on relationships following the 2008-09 recession. Grant Howell, partner in the family team at Charles Russell said: "Divorce figures are back on the rise with financial pressures in the economic crisis adding to the strain on married couples. With the number of cohabitating couples standing at 2.2 million, the Government should look again at reforming family law to address the hardship and injustice suffered by cohabitants on breakdown of the relationship, as identified by the Law Commission."
The divorce rate rose in 2010 to 11.1 divorcing people per thousand married population from 10.5 in 2009. The number of divorces in 2010 was highest among men and women aged 40 to 44.
Half of couples divorcing in 2010 had at least one child aged under 16 living in the family. There were 104,364 children aged under 16 who were in families where the parents divorced in 2010, a decrease of 27 per cent from 2000 when there were 142,457 children. However these changes may reflect the increasing proportion of children born to cohabiting, rather than married, couples.