The number of divorces rose for the first time in seven years last year.
The destructive impact of the economic downturn was blamed for the increase, as families struggled to cope with the tensions caused by money pressures and unemployment.
There were 119,589 divorces in England and Wales in 2010, up 4.9 percent from 113,949 in 2009. It is the first increase since 2003.
The rate of divorce also rose, with 11.1 people divorced for every 1,000 in the population of married people in 2010. This was up from 10.5 for every 1,000 married people in 2009, and the first rise in this number for five years.
Divorce was most common in the 40 to 44 age group, and the average marriage that ended in divorce lasted 11.4 years.
The figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate an end to the trend that ran through the second half of the last decade, which showed rising stability of relationships among the declining number of couples who did decide to marry. ONS experts blamed the latest rise in divorces on the economy.
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They acknowledged that some reasoning suggests recession should in fact have the opposite effect, as couples are less able to afford lawyers, or to pay for two homes after they part, or to sell their marital home.
But they pointed out that divorce rates went up fast in 1993 in the aftermath of the recession that seriously damaged property values between 1990 and 1992.
Some couples are thought to delay to make sure they are certain before they begin an expensive legal process, and in the hope that an economic recovery may raise the value of their homes and savings.
The ONS figures also showed that by last year a third of couples who wed in 1995 had divorced. This proportion of divorces within 15 years was far up on 1985 levels – by then 22 per cent of couples married in 1970 had divorced.