The rate of divorce has increased for the first time in five years, figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed (Greg Hurst writes).
There were 106,959 divorces last year, a rise of 5.8 per cent compared with the previous year, although experts cautioned that the figures may be a blip and the long-term trend remained downwards.
There were large falls in the rate of divorce in the preceding two years, including a drop of 9.1 per cent in 2015, and it remains well below its peak of 14 years ago.
Although the number of marriages has been falling as more couples choose to live together, the proportion of divorces among heterosexual couples also rose last year to 8.9 divorces per 1,000 couples, up by 4.7 per cent since 2015.
The divorce rate was highest among men aged 45 to 49 and women aged 30 to 39. The majority of divorces were petitioned by the wife, with the most common grounds being unreasonable behaviour.
There were also 112 divorces last year among same-sex couples, predominantly women, up from 22 in 2015. This was the second year that the divorce statistics include those for gay couples, after the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2014.
Jo Edwards, a partner at the London law firm Forsters, said: “The fact that the number of divorces continues to be in general decline is unsurprising. This is consistent with the decline in marriage rates over the past few decades as more couples choose to cohabit without marrying.”