Sex, money and lifestyle changes are the three most common core reasons for couples wanting to divorce at the moment. How do I know this with such certainty? Well, we conducted a survey among our own ranks, asking all 21 of our family law specialists to look back through their most recent 10 cases and note down the root cause of the split, and these were the top three.
However, the headline figures conceal a stark trend as it is money worries which are coming through as the major concern.
We conducted a similar survey five years ago. It showed that sex issues were cited in 43 per cent of divorces, lifestyle changes in 37 per cent and power (cruelty, violence, bullying) in 21 per cent. Money came in at just 11 per cent. Today money is the second most common reason cited, at 30 per cent, with lifestyle changes down to 28 and power up to 25 – but still pushed back into fourth place. Sex climbs one percentage point to 44 which means adultery, strange sexual preferences and the like are still the most common root cause of divorce.
So what should we be concerned about most? Delicate sexual issues still accounting for nearly half of divorce? This is a worrying statistic but, when you consider that includes all instances of adultery, a fairly common issue it is sad to say, then perhaps it is not surprising.
The fact that “power” has moved up to feature in a quarter of divorces is a serious issue. Think about it. One in four now include this in detail of the divorce. This does not need to be actual physical harm, but can be just as devastating.
However, if we were able to delve further into the causes behind this, I am sure we would uncover “money” as culprit in at least some of the cases. This might be families put under pressure because of the recession or partners losing their jobs and then reacting badly, but I am sure finance will be a driver of behaviour. If you look at it in this context then, and the huge jump up from money overtly featuring in 11 per cent of divorces five years ago to 30 per cent now, I would argue it is the influence of money issues that presents the biggest challenge for relationships today.
We remain in an economic slump with little sight of green shoots and all commentators suggesting it is going to be a long hard slog out of this, even bearing in mind we are already five years in. This points to money troubles getting worse for more families. Many may have eaten into savings to just hang on this long. As those reserves run dry, it inevitably puts pressure on relationships like almost nothing else.
What can we do? This survey points to the fact that we need to be offering more services to help couples in crisis. The message should go out that they are not alone, many others share their anguish but that there is support out there. We should do all we can to keep families together and not see more marriages become victims of perhaps the hardest recession in several generations.
This advice remains sound for those suffering domestic violence or bullying within a relationship. We should work harder to get messages out about where help can be accessed.
So was there any good news in the survey? Well, it seems the Facebook factor is falling, with social media being cited in seven per cent of divorces now compared to 11 per cent five years ago. Small comfort though.