Economic recovery boosts the divorce rate

Amy Winehouse and ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil. They were granted a quickie divorce this year

The shaky economic recovery is welcome news to most hard pressed families.

But, according to research, it also risks tearing them apart.

Divorce lawyers predict record business in January after takings plunged during the recession., a national group of 200 law firms, expects double the usual volume of monthly divorce-related enquiries.

It follows a 26 per cent increase in enquiries from July to November as the downturn started to slow.

Member law firms report current inquiry levels are now on average 11 per cent above those in November 2008 when the economy was at its lowest ebb.

Marriage counsellors said this was no surprise as while stagnant salaries, plummeting home values and rising unemployment created extra stress on marriages, they also made couples more financially dependent on each other.

Many who wanted to divorce could not afford the legal fees.

The significant extra cost of supporting a second household if they split up also stopped many couples with children from separating.

Falling property prices helped marriages survive as couples did not want  -  or could not afford  -  to sell homes in negative equity.

In the U.S., the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers also reported a 37 per cent drop in divorce cases.

Some of these couples used the hard times to their advantage and worked out their differences, but others postponed getting divorced for when their finances improved. chief executive, Craig Holt, said: 'The volume of divorce cases dropped right across the country this year due to the credit crunch.

'That wasn't a sign that less families were separating, but that many couples have been biding their time conscious that to divide assets worth considerably less than they once were might not be in either of their interests.

'However, as confidence has crept back into the market in recent months we have seen that trend begin to change significantly.

'We now expect unparalleled levels in January as a number of people who have been holding fire now take the hard decision to seek legal advice to pursue a divorce.'

In preparation the group has employed extra case-handlers to cope with demand.