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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Divorce rates at lowest since 1970s

Divorce rates for opposite-sex couples in England and Wales fell last year to their lowest since 1973, according to official data.

There were 101,669 divorces between opposite-sex couples in 2017, a 4.9 per cent decrease compared with 2016, but similar to the 101,055 seen in 2015, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found.

Elizabeth Davies, Director of Marriage Preparation and Formation at Marriage Care, welcomed the figures but insisted that there is still a great need to support couples who are experiencing difficulties in their marriages.

“Any decline in the number of divorces is something to be thankful for,” Ms Davies told The Catholic Universe. “The impact of divorce on the individuals concerned, any children they may have, their wider extended families, and also the Church community, is long-lasting and multi-faceted. That’s why it’s so crucial that any couple experiencing difficulty in resolving recurring difficulties receives support from experienced relationship counsellors, such as ours at Marriage Care, as soon as possible.”

Ms Davies explained that Marriage Care’s work with couples in distress demonstrates time and again just how beneficial this support can be in helping them to understand and address what’s really going on between them. However, she noted that the statistics show there is still a great need for support.

“We have seen around 300 new clients this year across England and Wales with around half as many again still on our waiting list. The challenge for us is as much about reaching couples and encouraging them to seek us out, as it is about finding the financial and human resources in order to continue to offer our ministry to marriage, if we are to sustain our commitment to reducing the divorce rates still further.”

The rate for opposite-sex couples was highest among men aged 45 to 49 and women aged 40 to 44, with unreasonable behaviour recorded as the most common reason.

Same-sex marriage has been possible in the UK since March 2014, with 22 divorcing the following year.

There were 112 divorces of same-sex couples in 2016 and this more than tripled to 338 in 2017.

Picture: Wedding rings. (Niall Carson/PA).