Affairs are no longer the top reason for couples divorcing, with “falling out of love” replacing it, according to a survey of lawyers.
Infidelity has topped the list since the survey began in 2003 but this year “growing apart” or “falling out of love” was given as the most common reason.
The poll, which questioned 101 family lawyers, also revealed a rise in the number of pre-nuptial agreements. Pre-nups are not currently legally binding in England and Wales, though a recent ruling by the Supreme Court has given them more weight.
The poll found 25 per cent of lawyers cited extramarital affairs as the main factor for their clients’ break up, while 27 per cent gave “falling out of love” or “growing apart” as the main reason.
One counsellor with Relate said it was common for couples to say they loved each other but were no longer “in love”.
Christine Northam commented: “What’s normally the case is that their relationship has slid down their list of priorities, replaced by the pressures of work, money worries or raising a family”.
She added: “Relationships need attention and time to nurture otherwise couples can easily drift apart.”
In July this year a senior family judge said divorce has become a “form-filling exercise” which is easier than getting a driving licence.
Sir Paul Coleridge criticised the “cultural revolution in sexual morality and sexual behaviour” and warned that a divorce can go through in just six weeks.
And he added that family breakdown now affects everyone in the country – “from the Royal Family downwards”.
In February the Government said couples considering divorce will have to undergo a mediation assessment before going to the courts.
The plans were announced by Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly and came into effect in April in England and Wales.
Mediation is not a reconciliation programme, rather it helps couples to divide their assets. Critics say it greases the tracks to divorce.
Large numbers of couples who begin a divorce don’t complete proceedings. Pushing couples into mediation may reduce the number of couples who pull out of the divorce process.