Divorce Rates Drops among Spouses scarred by Memories of Parents’ Splits 

Published on 15 March, 2017 | Back to News/Press

James Brown

Painful memories of parents’ divorces are spurring more discontented British spouses to work through their own problems rather than separate.

Analysis by one of the country’s leading family law firms has found that the number of divorces in England and Wales has fallen by one-third in the last 20 years.

That compares with a drop of one-fifth in the number of individuals choosing to marry over the same period.

Hall Brown has claimed that husbands and wives in troubled relationships were insisting that their parents’ experience was making them reconsider the prospect of ending their marriages.

Partner James Brown said some also described media coverage of high-profile divorces had acted as a deterrent.

“The increase in the number of individuals cohabiting has, of course, affected the number of marriages and divorces taking place but it doesn’t in any way explain why people who do wed actually stay together.

“In fact, many of the people who come to see us because their marriage is in trouble make clear that they don’t really want to divorce.

“Some underline a desire to explore every possible option to save their relationships because they remember only too well how much distress was caused by their parents’ marriages ending.

“It is almost a generational impact and a process which has, to a degree, arguably been assisted by cohabitation. In a lot of cases which we have become involved in, living together without marrying doesn’t necessarily mean not wanting to marry at all but a sort of marital acid test.

“A number of cohabitees who then progress to marriage are rather more pragmatic about tackling the sort of issues which can arise thereafter.

“Another common current factor among those forced to confront their difficulties is the eagerness to avoid the kind of long drawn-out, bitter and expensive divorce which they seem to have read about in media with increasing frequency.

“In the end, it is sometimes a combination of all of these factors which causes more couples to think again and try to overcome tensions which might well have resulted in couples filing for divorce in previous years.”

Mr Brown’s comments follow Hall Brown’s study of data on both divorce and marriage published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In 1993, a two-decade pattern of growth in the number of divorces reached a peak with 165,018 marriages ending. The most recent ONS figures showed that had fallen back to 111,169 by 2014, a drop of some 33 per cent.

By comparison, the number of marriages taking place over the same period had reduced from just under 300,000 to 240,854 – a decrease of 20 per cent.

Mr Brown added that the broad statistics masked what he believed was an “intriguing” pattern in how husbands and wives regard petitioning for divorce.

According to the ONS’ data, husbands now file for 37 per cent of all divorces, whereas the number in 1993 was only 28 per cent.

“The rate at which women file for divorce has dropped in a far more pronounced fashion than that of men.

“In my opinion, that is probably partially due to their expressing a particular wish not to put their families through what they may have experienced when their own parents broke up.

“It certainly bears out what they are telling us. They feel a maternal instinct, a need to protect their children from the upset which even relatively amicable divorces can generate.

“Due to that, it is almost a reversion to the attitudes of families before divorce law was changed just over 40 years ago – that is, they believe they have a duty to stay together with their husbands not only for their own sake but that of their children too.”

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