Bride and gloom - the real cost of breaking up

Article date: 18 June 2003

Couples divorcing in Britain face an average bill of more than£13,000, new research out today reveals.

With 157,000 marriages in Britain ending in divorce every year,research by Norwich Union reveals that more than £2 billion isspent by divorcees in the initial twelve months.

The research found that property is the biggest item on the billwith more than a third (35%) forced to sell their home to cover thecost of their divorce.

Becoming an ex also means raiding personal savings to supplementfunds. 41% use, on average, £6,250 from a savings account whichequates to a national withdrawal of around £800 million eachyear.

Divorce tops the grief list with almost half (46%) of thosesurveyed ranking it as the most stressful experience, abovebereavement and redundancy. And because of this, 40% of divorceessaid they would never marry again. A typical divorce settlementtakes more than a year to negotiate but 60% of those questionedended their marriages amicably. They also said that an amicableparting makes little difference to the final bill.

Other facts and figures include:

  • 28% found it stressful to adjust to single parenthood and 26%found it hard to establish a new social circle
  • Maintenance payments were paid or received by less than athird (30%) of people interviewed. Some 6% agreed a lump sumpayment
  • One in five people (20%) spend cash on items that they wouldnot have bought if not divorced, with a holiday coming out as thetop treat and a shopping spree a close second
  • Only 2% of people questioned had a pre-nuptial agreement butmore than one in four said they would have been better off hadthey had one drawn up prior to their wedding
  • Legal experts remained the primary source of practical adviceduring a divorce with 51% turning to their solicitor for guidance.A further 35% looked to family for support while 30% relied onfriends. Only 7% valued advice from support organisations orcounsellors

Louise Goffee, of Norwich Union, said: “Divorce is atraumatic experience for all involved even when the separation isamicable. Not only is it an emotionally stressful time but theexperience can add to money worries and increase pressure on thefamily coffers.

“Real life can throw up lots of surprises and sometimesthat can mean that we face tough times as well as good. With fourout of ten marriages ending in failure, divorce is a situation thatsome of our customers may have to deal with at some point duringtheir lifetime.

“We undertook this research to try and understand ourcustomers’ spending patterns so that we can help them to planfor the future. This is particularly necessary as concerns aboutthe savings gap begin to grow.”


Notes to Editors:

The average marriage lasts just nine years. And with 4.9 milliondivorced or separated people living in Britain, the Brits now holdthe record for the highest divorce rate in Europe. Among men, theaverage age of divorce is 41 and 39 for women.

Full summary of findings and casestudies available on request.

Research was carried out on behalf of Norwich Union byThe Survey Shop, who surveyed 280 divorced people nationwide,during May 2003.

Other sources: Relate, ONS

‘Cost of divorce’ calculator:

CostAverage amount
per person
who spent
Legal fees£1,668 52%£272.351m
Maintenance payments£3,324 15%£156.560m
Setting up a new home£2,638 51%£422.449m
Child care costs£1,685 16%£84.654m
Buying a second car£3,358 12%£126.529m
Treats: i.e. holidays, shopping spree etc.£6,510 16%£327.068m
First year’s mortgage or rent£6,000 35%£659.400m
    Total : £2049.011m (£2bn)
Cost per person = £6,525


Media contacts:

Jo Misson, Helen Roache or Liz Fay at QBO Bell Pottinger on 0207861 2424

   Out of hours
Louise GoffeeNorwich Union08703 66 68 7007810 057362
Lorna Wiltshire  Norwich Union08703 66 68 7807788 471849
Ian BeggsNorwich Union08703 66 68 7107790 487533
Weekend contacts:Jo Carr07776 137141 
 Jo Misson07887 777731 
 Liz Fay07885 965966 


An ISDN facility is available for studio quality interviews.Call the press office on 08703 66 68 73. For all life and pensionsmedia enquiries call 08703 66 68 73. For all other media enquiriescall 08703 66 68 68.

Norwich Union is the UK’s largest insurer. It is a leadingprovider of life, pensions and investment products and one of theleading IFA providers. IFAs provide around 70% of thecompany’s long-term savings business.

Norwich Union has strategic alliances with building societiesand other leading UK brand names including Tesco Personal Financeand The Royal Bank of Scotland Group.

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