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Divorce Statistics – Current trends and myths 2013


Busting the divorce myths: 

The following data is from the ONS but has been analysed by Harry Benson, Communications Directory for the Marriage Foundation, February 2013.

The cost of family failure in the UK is £44 billion per year – this is higher than the defense budget.

The 7 Year Itch is a myth:

For over 40 years, divorce rates have been consistently at their highest between 3 and 6 years after the marriage.  After peaking between three and six years, the likelihood of a marriage ending in divorce decreases with each year thereafter.

Recession raises divorce rates is a myth:

The divorce trend has remained constant in the UK despite recessions, booms and cultural changes in social attitudes.

2nd Marriages are more likely to fail – is a myth:

The second marriage for the husband shows a lower divorce rate than if it is the first marriage – possibly because the first marriage could have been a ‘slide’ whereas a second marriage is more likely to be a conscious commitment.

Silver Surfers:

Older couples divorce rates are not as alarming as has we have been led to believe: if a married couple survive the first ten years of marriage, their risk of divorce is the same as it has been in the previous four decades.

Living together before marriage increases the divorce risk – is a myth:

Living together before marriage appears not to be an issue if the couple are engaged.  But living together prior to the engagement does seem to affect divorce outcomes.  Again, this could be because couples who get engaged have already made a clear decision to be together for a long time, rather than sliding into marriage for other reasons having lived together for some time.

Divorce Rates:

In 1986 there was a divorce rate peak of 44% of married couples divorcing in that year.

Current trends show a rate according to ONS calculations of 42% – however, they exclude people who were married outside of the UK.  If all marriages are included for UK citizens, then the rate of divorce is actually only 39%.

One in five newlyweds divorce after ten years of marriage, with the likelihood of a marriage ending in divorce further shrinking with each decade. A tiny 2 per cent of weddings end in divorce after thirty years of marriage, with divorce rates after forty years of marriage even rarer: fewer than 0.5 per cent of couples divorce after being married forty years or more.

CoHabitation:  Professor Rebecca Probert: Warwick School of Law

Currently, a quarter of all births in the UK are recorded as being from couples who are cohabiting and not married (where both parents are registered on the birth certificate and have the same address).

This means the parents lack the protection of the marriage laws, since ‘common law marriage’ has never existed in the UK.

We have 2.9 million cohabiting couples in the UK today.


Further information: Marriage Foundation Press Release:





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