The number of divorces in England and Wales rose by 4.9 per cent in 2010 and an analysis by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggests the increase may be linked to tough economic times.
The statistics show that divorce rates continued to fall in 2008 and 2009, but spiked in 2010. The ONS report makes a credible argument that recession creates greater risk of divorce, but couples often hold off until a recovery raises the value of their assets before taking the plunge.
This idea is backed up by a similar trend during the previous recession in 1990-92, when divorce rates rose more drastically in 1993, rather than during the actual recession.
Seven out of 10 break-ups in 2010 involved first marriage couples, with the remainder having had at least one partner who had been previously divorced or widowed.
The statistics show that 119,589 couples got divorced in 2010, compared to 113,949 in 2009. The last time the divorce rate increased was in 2003, which saw 153,065 break-ups, up from 147,735 in 2002.
The number of divorces in 2010 was highest among men and women aged 40 to 44 and half of couples who were divorced in 2010 had at least one child under 16 living at home.
Some 65 per cent of decrees were granted to the wife. Unreasonable behaviour by the husband was cited in 55 per cent of cases brought by the wife, while this was given as the cause of divorce in 35 per cent of claims by the husband.
Dissolutions of civil partnership also increased in 2010, but the ONS report points out that this is consistent with the increasing number of people entering civil partnerships, which are relatively new.