Published: 19th December 2013
A new analysis of divorce figures from the last 40 years has revealed a dramatic increase in the number of men seeking to divorce their wives on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. Between 1971 and 2011, the number of such cases increased six fold.
Just 2,165 husbands successfully secured a divorce in 1971 on the grounds of their wife's "unreasonable behaviour." This represented just 6% of the total number of divorces granted against wives. In 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available, the figure stood at 14,597 cases or 36% of the total.
Some family law experts have suggested that this is caused by women gaining greater financial independence over the period studied. This, they suggested, could have made women more willing to assert themselves.
However, divorce solicitors have also pointed out that recent years have seen more generous divorce settlements awarded to spouses with lower incomes. Usually, this is the wife, and this has made it easier for women to leave their husbands without the same level of financial worry they may once have faced.
The new figures also reflect a long term trend whereby reasons for divorce are moving towards factors other than adultery. Until 1920, the only factor that could be used as grounds for a divorce was infidelity. This required either an admission of adultery by the accused spouse or proof acceptable to the court, which created difficulty in many cases.
However, the more general term "unreasonable behaviour" has been steadily replacing adultery as a major factor in divorces. Unreasonable behaviour was recognised as the chief cause in a little under a quarter of divorces in 1971. By 2011, this factor accounted for almost half.
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