Figures show that instances of divorce increased last year

Biggest year-on-year increase since the 1980s

The number of divorces recorded in England and Wales last year was the highest for several years, new statistics reveal.

Official figures show that 106,959 mixed-sex couple s were divorced in 2016, an increase of 5.8 per cent compared with 12 months previously.

This was the highest number since 2009 and the most dramatic year-on-year increase since the mid-1980s.

Overall, the number of divorces worked out at 8.9 for every 1,000 men and women in a marriage.

The relationship charity Relate has suggested that spiralling levels of debt and other financial pressures could be putting additional strain on couples’ marriages, although the organisation admits that it might be too early to draw firm conclusions.

Chris Sherwood, the charity’s chief executive, said: “It is unclear as to why there was a slight increase in divorces in 2016 and as to whether this rise will continue or not.

“We know that money worries are one of the top strains on relationships and it may be that rising levels of household debt and stagnating pay growth could be contributing factors.”

Analysis of the latest figures suggests that women in their 30s and men aged between 45 and 49 were most likely to file a petition.

2016 was also the second year that same-sex couples could seek a divorce, following on from the introduction of equal marriage legislation. The data shows that there were a total of 112 divorces among gay couples over the course of the 12 months.