Divorce rates among over-50s on the rise

'Silver separators' are the only age group bucking the trend


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The number of couples getting divorced in England and Wales has decreased again, according to the latest statistics - but divorces among the over-50s "silver separators" are showing an increase.

There was a decrease of 2.9% from 2012 to 2013, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, with a total of 114,720 divorces granted in 2013.

The average length of a marriage at divorce was 11.7 years in 2013 - the latest year for which data is available, the ONS said.

The ONS said the new figures continue the general decrease in the divorce rate since the 2004, with the exception of a spike in 2010 which was attributed to the UK's economic situation.

It said the 2013 rates are broadly similar to the situation in the mid 1970s.

The ONS compared the 2013 figures with those for 10 years earlier, in 2003, and found that while divorce in virtually all age groups had decreased there was an increase in the over-50s and in the small number of men under 20 who separate.

It said there has been a trend towards the group with the highest rates getting older in recent years with the 40 to 44 age bracket seeing the most divorces.

But women in their late 20s had the highest divorce rate of all female age groups.

And the mean divorcing age increased slightly in 2013 to 45.1 years for men and 42.6 years for women.

But no new statistics have been released for the percentage of marriages that end in divorce so the official proportion remains at the 42% figure last calculated in 2011.

The ONS said that 20% of marriages in 1968 had ended in divorce by the 15th wedding anniversary whereas for those married in 1998, 32% had ended by this time.

It said 29% of 2013 divorces involved couples where at least one of the parties had been divorced or widowed before.

Alison Hawes, partner at Irwin Mitchell solicitors, said the rise in over- 50s getting divorced is significant.

Ms Hawes said: "The issue of so-called silver separation is now more common and acknowledged than ever before. We have seen a number of cases when people at this point in their life simply drift apart, often as a result of empty nest syndrome which emerges when children have grown up and left the family home.

"This shifts the dynamics of a relationship and can mean that issues or animosity which had been placed to one side in the past comes once again to the fore.

"Similarly, with life expectancy rising, those in unhappy relationships may simply not be looking to spend another 20 or 30 years in their current situation."

Relate chief executive Chris Sherwood said he was looking to Chancellor George Osborne to invest further in relationship support services.

Mr Sherwood said: "As was the case in 2012, the number of divorces is highest in men and women aged 40-44.

"In the counselling room, we see many couples in their early 40s who are struggling with multiple pressures such as work, finances, childcare and caring for elderly parents.

"Relationship support services help to build the resilience families need to help weather these storms and Relate will be looking to this week's spending review for further investment in this area."

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