Divorce rates see highest rise since mid-1980s, figures show

Last year saw the highest rise in divorce rates
Last year saw the highest rise in divorce rates
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Last year saw the highest rise in divorce rates in England and Wales for more than two decades, according to national figures.

There were 106,959 divorces between opposite-sex couples in 2016, a 5.8% rise from the year before, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found.

It is the biggest rise since 1984 to 1985, when there was an increase of 10.9%, but the 2016 rate was still lower than it has been since the 1970s.

The highest number of divorces were among men aged 45 to 49 and women aged 30 to 39, the figures showed.

A total of 112 same-sex marriages ended in 2016, with lesbian couples accounting for 78% of that number.

Same-sex couples were only legally allowed to marry in March 2014, with 22 divorcing the following year.

ONS spokeswoman Nicola Haines said: "Although the number of divorces of opposite-sex couples in England and Wales increased by 5.8% in 2016 compared with 2015, the number remains 30% lower than the most recent peak in 2003.

"This is the second year that divorces among same-sex couples have been possible since the introduction of marriages of same-sex couples in March 2014.

"Our latest marriage figures show that of the 4,850 marriages formed between same-sex couples in 2014, 56% were female couples.

"In 2016, there were 112 divorces among same-sex couples, with female couples accounting for 78% of these."

The Marriage Foundation said the figures "conceal the overall downward trend indivorce".

Director Harry Benson said: "Today's newlyweds are doing better than any couples who married since the early 1970s.

"It's easy to focus on divorce because marriages and divorces are easy to count.

"But it's not divorce that has put Britain at the bottom of the family stability league for the entire developed world.

"It's the much higher break-up rates among couples who don't marry, don't divorce, and are therefore harder to count."