The divorce rate in England and Wales is at its lowest level since 1977, according to new figures released today by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). In 2009 10.5 people per 1,000 of those married got divorced - down from 11.2 per 1,000 the previous year - the lowest rate since 1977 when the figure was 10.3 per 1,000.
The number of divorces is also down to its lowest level since 1974. In 2009 there were 113,949 divorces compared with 121,708 the previous year, a 6.4% fall.
For the fifth consecutive year, men and women in their late twenties had the highest divorce rates of all age groups. In 2009 there were 21.7 males divorcing per thousand married men aged 25 to 29 and 25.1 females divorcing per thousand married women aged 25 to 29. This compared with 15.6 males divorcing per thousand married men aged 45 to 49 and 13.7 females divorcing per thousand married women aged 45 to 49 in 2009.
Since 1999 the average age at divorce in England and Wales has risen from 40.9 to 44.0 years for men and from 38.4 to 41.5 years for women, partly reflecting the rise in age at marriage.
One in five men and women divorcing in 2009 had a previous marriage ending in divorce. This proportion has doubled since 1980 when 10 per cent of men and women divorcing had a previous marriage ending in divorce. In 2009 70 per cent of divorces were to couples where the marriage was the first for both parties.
For 67 per cent of divorces in 2009, the wife was granted the divorce. For all divorces granted to an individual (rather than jointly to both), behaviour was the most common reason for divorce.