Sunday Times caption: Today’s husbands help out more at home (RUBBERBALL PRODUCTIONS)
A piece by Nicholas Hellen, Social Affairs Editor, in yesterday’s Sunday Times:
While the #MeToo movement has revealed some of the worst facets of men’s behaviour towards women at work, there is now more positive news about the way husbands treat their wives.
Official figures show there has been a halving in the number of women seeking a divorce compared with their mothers’ generation.
The fall in divorce rates is almost entirely down to fewer wives petitioning for a split, from a peak of 118,401 in 1993 to 62,712 in 2017, the lowest number since the rapid rise in divorce in the 1970s following the liberalisation of the law in 1969 that made it much easier for couples to separate.
The number of divorces initiated by husbands fell by 15% to 38,957 over the same period, according to Office for National Statistics figures.
Harry Benson, research director of the Marriage Foundation, who compiled the figures ahead of Valentine’s Day on Thursday, said: “At a time when men’s past bad behaviour towards women is being challenged, and quite rightly, we are now seeing clear evidence that men’s behaviour in their marriages at least has improved substantially over the past 25 years.”
Joanne Edwards, head of family at Forsters, a London law firm, has further analysed the grounds cited for divorce, finding that husbands and wives are now almost equally likely to blame their spouse’s adultery, at around 10% each. In 1993, her figures show 23% of husbands and 39% of wives were accused of adultery.
Edwards said she had found a “sea change in the sharing of childcare responsibilities within the home and fathers who are ever more hands-on”.
She said this has reduced what had been a common complaint of wives, who in the past sought a divorce on the grounds of bad behaviour.
Sir Paul Coleridge, a former High Court judge and founder of the Marriage Foundation, said it was time to challenge the stereotype of men behaving badly.
“When I was engaged in the justice system, wives were almost always the initiators of divorce,” he said. “That is becoming less and less true year by year. Why? The only sensible explanation is that men are behaving better and more responsibly when it comes to marriage.”
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