Actual divorce rates down by half

UK divorce rates among newlyweds have dropped to their lowest levels in thirty years, new analysis has found.

The proportion of couples divorcing after three years has more than halved since rates peaked in 1993.

For couples married for five years, divorce is down by well over a third (39 per cent), while for couples who have made it to their first decade together, it is down by a fifth.

Divorce soared in the 1960s but began to decline again in the 1990s. The drop is almost entirely a result of fewer women filing for divorce, suggesting husbands are embracing their share of the responsibility for making a marriage work.

Experts put the fall down to people choosing to marry rather being pressured into it. Men particularly who make a clear decision to commit are more likely to be happy and stable, according to research.

Harry Benson, research director of Marriage Foundation, commented: “Among all the talk of divorce and law reform, it’s easy to miss the good news story that today’s marriages are more stable than at any time since the 1970s.

“Some level of relationship failure is inevitable. But today’s falling divorce rates contrast with the far higher break-up rate among couples who don’t marry.

“This new research shows that higher levels of family stability can be achieved if we embrace commitment. If you want reliable love, the odds are ever more stacked in your favour if you get married. Don’t put up with mere cohabitation. Marriage is the real thing.

Sir Paul Coleridge, founder and chairman of Marriage Foundation, commented: “For those of us who are in the long-term business of confronting and combatting the national scourge of family breakdown, with all its attendant pain and suffering for children, it is rare to encounter genuinely good news.

“But this is a real good news story. Divorce amongst the recently married – the period of the highest divorce risk where young children are invariably found – is on a relentless and steady decline from its peak in the swinging sixties and seventies.

“Amongst the middle aged and above, painful as divorce is, it has never been at levels which are out of hand. The fact is marriage works and is the single most effective antidote to family breakdown.

“However there remain three big blots on this optimistic landscape. First, the number of those now getting marrying is stuck at too low a level when unmarried cohabitants have a three times higher risk of separation.

“Secondly although non-married partners only account for a fifth of the total of cohabiting couples they generate half the break ups. And thirdly and most tragically this higher rate of separation amongst the unmarried is especially a feature of the lives of the less well-off who have in recent decades largely turned their backs on marriage. Surely they have enough hardship without adding family breakdown into the mix? The statistics for the better off have scarcely altered at all.

“We are determined to put marriage back as the default arrangement for all parents. Marriage has to be given a new look and feel. Whilst retaining its essential ingredients of sound commitment and legal protection it needs to shake off its image as an arrangement rooted in the age of Queen Victoria.

“The campaign we are running in partnership with The Times is the place to start. It is a golden opportunity to dump the current dishonest and discredited, ‘fake-fault’ divorce system which does nothing but generate needless bitterness when calm and sensible discussion about the future is the priority. This system is a real turn off for the young far too many of whom have direct experience of messy divorce.”


Here you can download the Research Briefing Paper as a PDF and the Press Release where it is available.

Media Links

Divorce rate among newly married halves in 25 years

The Times, September 22, 2018

By Frances Gibb: Divorce rate among newly married halves in 25 years

Daily Mail, September 22, 2018

By Claire Anderson: Divorce rates drop to their lowest levels in nearly 30 years as ‘men take more responsibility to make their marriages work’

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