County divorce rate falls as couples return to class

Catherine MacFarlane

Catherine MacFarlane

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

THE divorce rate in Oxfordshire has fallen by almost a fifth since 2011, new figures show.

There were 1,266 divorces last year compared to 1,430 in 2012/13 and 1,533 in 2011/12, Office for National Statistics figures show.

The boss of an Oxford marriage preparation charity believed that was because more young people wanted to make their forthcoming union work.

Marriage Care’s one-day course teaches couples the importance of “healthy argument” and needs more volunteers to meet rising demand.

Charity boss Catherine MacFarlane said: “I think young people are looking at relationships that have broken down in the past and want to understand how to make it work.”

Ms MacFarlane, 67, who is married with three children and eight grandchildren, said: “Marriage grows stronger if there is a healthy conflict.

“A well-managed argument can be a much healthier way of working through problems because it is not being buried.”

The national charity - which relies on donations - has launched a campaign against “disposable dads” leaving single mums to bring up children.

Ms MacFarlane said: “Children should be brought up seeing healthy relationships that work, where parents have an argument but make up.”

Its 16 volunteers run five one-day courses of up to 13 people in Temple Cowley alongside private sessions.

Its tutors explain the value of “healthy conflict” and nurturing a relationship like a “beautiful plant”.

She said: “The number of people coming on our courses has grown enormously, nowadays we are always oversubscribed.

“Marriage changes the dynamic of a relationship, one person might relax more and what happens if one person is made redundant or becomes ill?”

Her comments come after Prime Minister David Cameron spoke of the importance of helping families stay together at the Relationships Alliance Summit last week.

He pledged to double the budget for relationship counselling to £19.5m and ensure domestic policy “will be examined for its impact on the family” from October.

Latest figures, for 2012, show 3,060 of the 8,217 births in Oxfordshire were to women outside marriage or civil partnership.

Of those, 2,217 births were registered to parents at the same address, 533 to parents at different address and 310 to single mums.

In 2013/14, there were 2,300 marriages in Oxfordshire, down from 2,481 the year before and 2,409 in 2011/12.

For more on the charity visit marriagecare.org.uk or call 0800 389 3801

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