Figures released by the Office for National Statistics reveal that the vast majority of UK divorce petitions are made by women rather than men. In a recent set of divorce statistics, women were found to initiate divorce proceedings two thirds of the time in 2011. Whilst this figure is high, rates of 69% and 72% have been recorded in 2001 and the early 1990s respectively.
‘Why is this the case?’ one might wonder. Usefully, the ONS has also given an analysis of the factors which may encourage women to seek divorce more readily than men because divorces can only by sought on five grounds: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, desertion, two year separation with the consent of the spouse, or five year separation without spousal support. Judging from the number of divorces citing adultery, women are as guilty of infidelity as men are, with men actually claiming to have been betrayed fractionally more often than women.
The figures from the ONS also show that over 50% of divorces granted to women cite unreasonable behaviour from husbands, a term which is inclusive of many behaviours, including gambling addiction, alcoholism and mental bullying.
However, as any experienced divorce solicitor will tell you, looking for the real reasons for getting unhitched, it’s worth taking these figures with a large pinch of salt. Certainly back in the days when I was a practising family law solicitor, I took the firm view that solicitors have a duty to try to make any divorce as easy and stress free as possible. I was far from alone in that view, and that attitude has become more increasingly amongst divorce solicitors in recent years.
Therefore, it was always my very firm advice, to keep the grounds for divorce down to the very bare minimum. As a result I would almost always recommend that my clients chose unreasonable behaviour as a ground instead of any adultery – and when choosing unreasonable behaviour, I would suggest the kind of relatively mild unreasonable behaviour that I knew local courts would accept as sufficient to justify divorce – but which was unlikely to strongly antagonise the other party. So, for example, I would always recommend, whenever possible, that my clients [male or female ] avoided going nuclear by including any highly personal allegations of a sexual or violent nature. Instead, I would recommend, whenever appropriate, to the client that we use much milder examples of unreasonable behaviour as grounds for divorce – such as “my husband said he never loved me” or “my wife never showed me affection or showed interest in my life”. It was rare that I these generalisations weren’t part of the cause of the split – but best of all these more gentle allegations of unreasonable behaviour rarely upset the other party and in my view, helped to ease the pain of divorce for both parties. In fact, I would often try to get the other parties agreement to the wording of the divorce petition before we even issued it!
Returning to the numbers from the ONS, it seems that the concerns that many wedded males undergoing divorce have about losing contact with their children are based on good reason. 4 in 5 children with separated parents have sole residency at the mother’s home. Many other men – even those earning high wages – have serious fears about the devastating impact that getting divorced may have on their finances.
Ex-wives have equally prevalent concerns with fears about single motherhood, unemployment and moving on from a potentially violent partner topping the list. Concerns about money also affect many women post-divorce with researchers at Cambridge University finding that women’s salaries drop by an average of 30% following divorce. Despite this, it is women who are the most willing to pull the plug on their marriage.
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