Posted on: June 24th, 2014

The rise in the latest divorce figures is likely to have been brought about by the rising cost of living, with growth not yet filtering down to ordinary people, the founder of Cygnet Family Law has said.

Peter Medd, of the Redcar-based law firm, has contradicted analysts who have said the rise in divorce is due to the recovering economy, which means people can afford to divorce.

Instead, he believes that the latest divorce figures are up because marriages have becomes increasingly stressed because of rising fuel and food costs, combined with stagnant wages, have put increasing strain on relationships.

Mr Medd said: “Sadly, divorce is once again on the rise – something we often see in times of economic hardship and particularly prevalent at the moment, after prices have become out of kilter with wages and the cost of living is rising.

“Although it’s too early to say that the rise of 0.5 pc to 118,140 divorces in 2012 is the beginning of a long-term upward trend, over the past 12 months, we have certainly a seen an increase in demand for our services in this area, and I believe the economic climate has been significant in all of this. The latest figures show that 13 couples divorced every hour in 2012, with half of these occurring in the first ten years of marriage.

“Other analysts may argue a rise in the divorce rate is a sign of economic recovery, with couples feeling once a recession ends, they can afford to divorce, but in our experience, the benefits of growth have yet to be seen by many of our clients.

“Financial hardship can put a great strain on relationships, and couples, like companies, may eventually find they simply can’t go on. While mediation can often help to save a marriage, sometimes the relationship sadly becomes unsustainable and the couple will take the decision to divorce.

“Households, particularly those on lower incomes, have been severely squeezed in the face of rising fuel and food costs, combined with a general stagnation of wages, with ordinary working people really feeling the pinch.

“Prices have been outstripping wages for the past six years, and while the minimum wage has risen by just a few pence since the banking crash, the average energy bill has doubled since 2004, causing a huge strain in the household budgets of many hard-working families. Welfare Reform has also seen a real decrease in income of some of society’s least well-off households.

“Given these economic conditions, it should come as no surprise that in the North East, one in ten couples split or divorce because their partner is in debt.

“Statistics produced by the Money Charity show that the average UK household debt stands at £54,141 and the average daily interest paid on debt nationally stands at £164m. As a family lawyer, all too often we find that debt can lead to secrecy, with people burying their heads in the sand and hiding their money problems from their partners because they are scared, embarrassed or simply can’t face discussing the problem.

“The advice I would give to people who find their relationships at breaking point because of money worries, is to try and work things out by consulting debt charities, including the local Citizens’ Advice Bureau, StepChange and the Debt Advisory Centre, can help, as can talking about the problem.

“I would also warn people thinking of signing up to joint-credit agreements to consider the implications. Life and critical-illness cover or income-protection insurance can protect partners against fixed debt should the worst happen.

“If the situation becomes so bad that the only solution is to split up, you should protect yourself and ensure you are not financially responsible for your partner’s debt. This includes being sure to inform all credit reference agencies to disassociate yourself from your partner on your credit records.”

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