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Divorce rates for heterosexual couples rise for the first time in six years

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Divorce rates amongst heterosexual couples rose by 5.8 per cent in 2016, representing the biggest year on year jump since 1985, according to a report by the Office of National Statistics.

The data shows that there were 106,959 divorces in 2016, which equates to some 8.9 divorces per 1000 married men and women aged 16 and over.

The data reveals that 51 per cent of women and 36 per cent of men petitioned for divorce on grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’. This category has consistently been the most common ground for petitioning for divorce since the late 1970s.

However, Relate, a charity that specialises in relationship counselling, argues that financial worries are putting a greater strain on couples, that can lead to relationship issues.

Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive of Relate, said ‘we know that money worries are one of the top strains on relationships and it may be that rising levels of household debt and stagnating pay growth could be contributing factors.’

Divorce rates among heterosexual couples in 2016 were highest among men aged 45 to 49 and among women aged 30 to 39. This can partly be explained by the fact that women tend to marry men older than themselves.

However, the largest percentage increase in divorce rates occurred with the over-50s. In 2016, 19,454 men and more than 13,000 women aged 55 and above got divorced, according to the report.

It has been suggested that rise in so-called ‘silver splitters’ could be attributed in part to pension freedoms launched in 2015, allowing those over the age of 55 to access their pension pots early, giving them greater financial freedom to make changes in their personal life.

For advice about divorce, family law or any other matter, contact Glynis Wainman on 01923 650862 or email

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.