The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics shows a sudden rise in the number of divorces in England and Wales, up 5.8% on the previous year. It’s the first increase in the divorce rate this decade. The figures also reveal that the increase is highest amongst older people.
Tam Katibeh, a paralegal in the Family and Matrimonial department of Plymouth-based Curtis Whiteford Crocker solicitors, has noticed this trend in the traditional “January rush” of divorce and separation proceedings that follows Christmas.
“It’s caused sometimes by people spending Christmas together, or the arrival of the New Year when people are looking at making a new start. They may have felt that the marriage has been over for some time, but the New Year makes them think about doing something about it,” says Tam. “They get that ‘final’ Christmas out of the way and start afresh”.
“We get a mix of people seeking a divorce, but I’ve been quite surprised more recently at how many people are looking to divorce after 20 or 30 years of marriage. I find that quite sad, to think that they’ve spent most of their adult life together and now they are going their separate ways after having built a life together”.
“It often happens when the kids leave home,” says Tam. “A lot of women reach the point where they think it’s time to think about themselves. They decide to ‘focus on me.’ They find behaviour patterns change when the children have grown and moved out. They sit and think ‘is this the life for me?”
“People are living longer and at this point in their lives they might have 20 or 25 years stretching out ahead of them. From a social aspect, divorce is no longer a taboo. There was a certain generation that would have stayed together for the sake of the children, but that’s no longer the case. Many things have changed – women are raising children on their own, and there are same sex couples.”
Most divorces are granted on the basis of unreasonable behaviour – 51% of all wives’ petition on this basis and 36% of all men, according to the ONS figures.
Tam encourages her clients to try and reach an agreement with their former spouses. “I have yet to have a financial settlement go to court, most people try to agree. I try and encourage people to reach an agreement and be reasonable with one another, not only is this cost effective, but enables them to finalise matters and go their separate ways quicker. However, when it comes to reaching agreement regarding the children and the amount of time they will spend with each parent, nine out of ten cases do require the assistance of the Court”.
“A lot of people do wish to to keep matters amicable with some therefore choosing to divorce relying upon the fact of two years separation with consent and entering into a Separation Agreement in the meantime, in order to resolve the matrimonial finances”.