The number of couples divorcing in Northern Ireland has fallen sharply, according to new figures.
Almost 2,200 couples officially split last year, nearly 600 fewer than in 2008, new statistics reveal. The decline is being linked by some people to the recession and the decline in the value of couples’ property which has hit the value of the assets they can divide between them.
The numbers coincide with figures from the rest of the UK, as figures from England and Wales show that there has been a decline in the numbers getting divorced there.
According to prominent Irish family lawyer, Gerry Durkan SC, the numbers getting divorced here have also declined.
The number of marriages dissolved in Northern Ireland last year was 2,176. The average time married couples spent together before deciding to go their separate ways was just under 18 years.
Around 15 per cent of the divorces related to weddings which took place outside Northern Ireland, mostly because one of the partners had been living in another country.
Just under 3,900 children and stepchildren, a majority of them aged under 18, were affected by the break-ups, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.
Fewer people got married last year as well.
Just under 8,000 were registered, including 1,200 in August, which was the most popular month for wedding ceremonies, with the third Saturday the number one choice as the date for walking down the aisle.
There were 96 civil partnerships, up 10 from 2008.
Couples are also waiting longer before exchanging their vows. The average age for the groom is now 33 compared with 28 in 1989. The average age of the bride is 31 compared with 26.
In this jurisdiction, meanwhile, fewer couples are separating in the High Court due to the credit crunch, according to leading family law barrister Gerry Durcan SC.
At a speech to the annual Round Hall family law conference last November, Mr Durkan said that people are putting off the moment when they might separate while others were opting for the Circuit Court, which handles cases involving fewer assets.
“The matrimonial courts are nothing more than a reflection of what is going on in society,” he told The Irish Times after the conference. “Nothing is predictable at the moment. There is a mini-Nama in each case. People have to find a situation where they use the assets that do exist to trade out of the situation where they are.”
Banks, he said, were now much more reluctant to release money to assist in funding settlements.