According to statistics released by the Office for National Statistics, the divorce rate is at its lowest since 1974, with some 113,949 taking place in 2009 (the last year for which records are available). The average age of divorce for me rose to 44 for men and 41.4 for women.
Perhaps the changing nature of society is also shown in the number of children born outside of marriage. In 2008, the Office for National Statistics reported that 45% of children were born outside of marriage. In some areas of England and Wales it is projected that up to 75% of children will be born to unmarried mothers by 2014.
It is no surprise to many that divorce rates are falling as couples choose different domestic arrangements, often wishing to cohabit instead of marrying. There are however, pitfalls for the unwary as being in a cohabiting relationship does not give you the same rights and remedies on the breakdown of your relationship as you would receive as a spouse. Moreover the statistics mask the very real issue that the problems facing couples separating remain the same whatever term is given to their relationship. Money, housing and the arrangements for the children remain pressing concerns.
Whether you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting it is important to receive clear advice early on and understand the options available to you and your children. Involving a solicitor does not always mean going to Court and being involved in protracted and bitter disputes as are often portrayed in the media. Collaborative law continues to offer an alternative way to resolve disputes in which you work with your spouse to resolve matters and you both actively agree not to go to Court except for the purpose of asking the Court to formalise your agreement.
Mark Smith is a partner in the Scown Family team, dealing with all aspects of family work, including children matters, adoption and civil partnerships. Mark is a Resolution accredited specialist in private law children issues and domestic abuse in addition to being a Collaborative lawyer.
Stephens Scown’s divorce solicitors are ranked number one in Devon and Cornwall for family law by independent legal guides Chambers and Legal 500.