Western Mail, 29th January 2010
The recession was blamed last night for the falling rate of divorce in Wales and England.

According to data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), divorces decreased 5% in 2008 to 121,779 from 128,232 in 2007.

By 2008 – the fifth consecutive year divorce numbers had dropped – there had been a vast reduction from a peak of 153,176 in 2003.

It is also the lowest figure since 1975 when there were 120,522 divorces.

But the results also showed that, compared with 2007, divorce rates in England and Wales increased for men up to 39 and over 60, and for women aged 20 to 34 and 50 to 59.

For the fourth year running, both men and women in their late twenties had the highest divorce rates of all five-year age groups.

In 2008, there were 26.3 divorces per 1,000 married men aged 25 to 29 and 27.8 per 1,000 married women aged 25 to 29.

This compared with 16.8 divorces per 1,000 married men aged 45 to 49 and 14.6 per 1,000 married women aged 45 to 49 in the same year.

Results also revealed there were 106,763 children aged under 16 who were in families where the parents got divorced.

The number has fallen 29% from a decade earlier, when there were 150,129 children in the same situation.

Christine Jones, Relate services manager for Wales, said many couples had been forced to stay together because of the recession, as the slow housing market prevented them selling and dividing the proceeds.

She added: “We’ve had couples coming to counselling, who can’t afford to separate because they can’t sell the house. I think the recession’s had an impact on that.”

But divorce lawyer, Melanie Hamer, of Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice, based in Cardiff, said she anticipated a dramatic increase in divorces as the economy improves.

Ms Hamer said “There was a study done during the last big recession in America in the 1920’s.

“It was amazing how far fewer people were divorcing because of the recession”.

“Also when there’s plenty of money washing around people can go off and pursue other lifestyles and interests and possibly have relationships away from home.”

“When cash is tight they haven’t got the money to do it because they can’t afford to go out.”

Relate claims their marriage support works, with 80% of respondents to a survey who wanted to stay together saying they felt counselling helped to strengthen their relationship.

Research has also shown 50% of separated people said they felt there were things they could have done to prevent their break-up, and they wished they had done more.

Yesterday’s statistics also showed that in 2008, the divorce rate in England and Wales decreased by 2.5% to 11.5 divorcing people per 1,000 married population, compared with 11.8 in 2007.

The average age at divorce increased for both men and women in 2008.

The average age for men divorcing was 43.9 in 2008 an increase from 43.7 years in 2007.

For women this increased from 41.2 years in 2007 to 41.4 years in 2008.