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Law firm annual survey shows no increase in 'silver splitters'

Law firm Grant Thornton's 10th annual 'Matrimonial Survey' has revealed lots of information on trends in divorce and family law, but shows that despite some perceptions, there is no upward trend in the ages of divorcing couples.

The survey for 2013 was conducted in a year when several major changes were felt in the family law sector, not least the removal of legal aid for most divorce cases, which was implemented in April.

The Grant Thornton 2013 Matrimonial Survey asked 85 of Britain's leading family law solicitors their opinions on a wide range of issues in family law.

The survey showed that despite a perception that the average divorce age is increasing due to a growing number of 'silver splitters', the realities felt by most of those canvassed was that the average age remained in the 40 to 49 age group.

This is despite the fact that Office of National Statistic figures released in August 2013 showed that the number of couples over the age of 60 seeking out divorces had risen 75% in the past 20 years. The ONS believes that the fact people are living longer lives has resulted in many considering a divorce in their 60s.

The survey also looks at reasons for divorce and shows that the modern trend is that 'growing apart' and 'falling out of love' are now the commonest reasons for couples to split, cited by almost one third of divorcing couples.

The extra-marital affair is no longer the principle reason for getting a divorce, although affairs are still cited in around one quarter of divorce cases. The third most common reason for divorce was unreasonable behaviour.

The survey showed that it was becoming more and more common for longer marriages to come to an end, with 14% of lawyers saying that the majority of divorce cases they were handling in 2013 were from couples married for 20 years or longer. This figure was just 4% in 2012.

The survey comments on the issue most affecting divorce and family lawyers in 2013. Top of their list of grievances were 'litigants in person'. Litigants in person are those who represent themselves in a divorce case. The number of litigants in person is expected to rise as legal aid funding has been removed from most divorce cases, leading many to consider ditching a legal representative in order to save money.

Overall the survey showed a decrease in the total number of divorces, citing the recession as a reason for this.

Nick Andrews is a partner in Forensic and Investigation Services. "In tough economic times, when people's budgets are tight, it is perhaps not surprising to see a fall in the divorce rate," he said.