Number of divorces in Scotland falls to 30-year low

THE number of divorces in Scotland has fallen to a 30-year low.

There were 10,173 divorces in 2009/10, 10 per cent fewer than the previous year and the lowest level since 1981.

The recent economic downturn has been a factor in more couples sticking together, according to relationship experts. The long-term fall in marriage rates has also inevitably resulted in fewer divorces.

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The figures released by the Scottish Government yesterday also indicate that Catholic marriages last longest, about 20 years on average, before couples split.

Stuart Valentine, chief executive of Relationships Scotland, said: "We are aware of the fact that divorce rates are at their lowest for a long, long time, but one of the key reasons for that is the smaller number of people getting married.

"There is still an increasing percentage of those getting married who will go on to break up. That is a big part in why the divorce rate is low.

"There are also more children in Scotland born outside of wedlock, so it's part of an overall trend towards more people not getting married."

The number of new marriages has dropped by about a third in the past 30 years, from around 38,000 in the early 1980s to about 27,500 last year, Relationships Scotland, which helps families in conflict and facing separation, has also become aware of some couples choosing to delay separation and divorce for financial reasons, Mr Valentine said.

"It's an enormous financial burden for a couple to break up in terms of one partner moving out and having to find somewhere else to live and perhaps being forced to sell a property for less than they paid, given the fall in property prices in some areas," he added.

"The cost of divorce in the courts can be expensive as well."

The figures show that 952 Roman Catholic marriages ended in divorce in 2009-10, but they lasted an average of 20 years before couples divorced, four years more than the national average.

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Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, welcomed the news.

"Statistics showing that Catholic marriages last 50 per cent longer than others is also a hopeful sign suggesting that the increased take-up of the marriage preparation courses offered by the Church in partnership with Scottish Marriage Care is having an effect," he said.

"The Catholic Church recognises the importance of relationship counselling and support, and its partnership with Scottish Marriage Care acknowledges that they are the only agency in Scotland able to offer a continuum of support to couples before and during marriage."

Church of Scotland marriages last an average of about 18 years, and 3,386 of these ended in divorce last year.The average among civil marriages was 14 years.

Women are more likely to seek a divorce up to the age of 45, at which point men become the main instigator of proceedings.

The two most common grounds for divorce were non-cohabitation for two years, which accounted for 59 per cent of all divorces, and non-cohabitation for one year with consent, which was the grounds for a quarter of divorces.