*iStock photo
*iStock photo

Divorce numbers have plummeted in Bermuda over the past five years because many couples cannot afford to split up.

Lawyers told the Bermuda Sun that financial factors often lay at the root of why islanders abandoned plans to divorce.

Last year the Supreme Court granted 145 divorces, which was the lowest figure for more than 10 years.

There were 190 divorce claims that were filed in 2012, but 45 were not granted, which is the highest proportion for more than 10 years.

So far this year just 152 divorces have been filed with the Supreme Court.

Lawyer Rachael Barritt, of Marshall Diel & Myers Limited, told the Bermuda Sun: “We have definitely seen a significant drop in the number of divorces being dealt with by the courts over the last five or six years.

“You can see this on the last Friday of each month when undefended divorces are dealt with by the Supreme Court.


“There used to be at least 20 cases being dealt with in one undefended divorce session on a regular basis, but now the lists seem to be getting shorter and shorter.”

“It’s so noticeable that even one of the judges commented on the trend recently.

“There are probably three factors behind this significant decrease.

“Firstly the expatriate community has declined in numbers over the last few years which has had an impact on the number of people who could file for divorce, and secondly we see an increasing number of couples are simply choosing not to get married.

“But to me the most significant factor is the tough economic times we now face.

“We see many people who are going through unhappy times in their marriage who come in to seek advice on what a divorce would involve and how it would impact them financially.

“When faced with the financial reality of what a divorce would mean they decide to try and stick together and weather the storm due to the financial realities, particularly when it impacts their children.

“So some spouses will choose not to proceed with divorce despite the problems. The idea of supporting a family on two incomes can be hard enough for some families, let alone doing it on one income.”

Divorce lawyer, Jackie MacLellan, added: “I believe this drop is partly due to the exodus of the international business community.

“But the fact is that many people can not afford to get a divorce so they stay together because once you get a divorce you have to provide two houses.

“I would encourage people to look at the Collaborative Law Process which aims to resolve the party’s interests without going to court.

“It’s a process that has really taken hold in the last few years in the US, UK and Canada and there has been a significant number of people using it in Bermuda now.”

In 2002 289 divorce cases were filed, of which 252 were granted.

While in 2007 254 divorce claims were filed with the Supreme Court, of which 240 were later granted.

Since that time the number of divorces filed and granted has gradually reduced.

In 2011 207 divorces were filed, of which 177 were granted, while last year 145 divorces were granted.

Lawyer Keren Lomas added: “When situations are adverse people tend to stick together more to get through it and these times are very, very hard on a lot of people.

“Furthermore the fact that now legal aid can not be claimed for divorce proceedings unless there are children involved has also had an effect.

“I do not think this drop is because relationships are more harmonious these days, it is more to do with the economic conditions that people find themselves in.

“The statistics clearly show that divorce numbers have been on the drop for some time now.”

 To find out more information about the Collaborative Law Approach go to www.cla.bm