Divorce rates at lowest since 1970s

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Divorce rates for opposite-sex couples in England and Wales fell last year to their lowest since 1973, according to official data.

There were 101,669 divorces between opposite-sex couples in 2017, a 4.9% decrease compared with 2016, but similar to the 101,055 seen in 2015, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found.

The rate for opposite-sex couples was highest among men aged 45 to 49 and women aged 40 to 44, with unreasonable behaviour recorded as the most common reason.

Same-sex marriage has been possible in the UK since March 2014, with 22 divorcing the following year.

There were 112 divorces of same-sex couples in 2016 and this more than tripled to 338 in 2017.

Lesbian couples accounted for 74% of same-sex divorces in 2017.

ONS spokeswoman Nicola Haines said: “Divorce rates for opposite-sex couples in England and Wales are at their lowest level since 1973, which is around 40% lower than their peak in 1993.

“However, among older people rates are actually higher in 2017 than in 1993 – perhaps due to the fact we have an increasingly ageing population and people are getting married later in life.

“The number of divorces among same-sex couples more than trebled between 2016 and 2017 – although this is not surprising since marriages of same-sex couples have only been possible in England and Wales since March 2014.”

Frank Young, head of family policy at centre-right think tank the Centre for Social Justice, said: “Divorce rates falling might seem like a reason to celebrate, but it is nothing of the sort.

“All this shows is the ongoing decline in couples choosing to get married, which means overall there are fewer couples to divorce.”

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